Below, an internal Pentagon email from Rosa Brooks,
Senior Advisor to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Rule of Law and International
Humanitarian Policy, explaining to senior Pentagon officials that the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, has signed off on an effort to reduce the stigma of "psychological operations" -- "PSYOPS" -- by changing its name to "Military Information Support Operations" -- or MISO.
The e-mail was obtained by a source who supports the name change.
Yes, but it's a start.
According to official Pentagon policy, "PSYOPS" are "planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals."
That sounds a bit sinister, and so does "PSYOPS," which is why Adm. Eric Olson, the Commander in Chief of the Special Operations Command, decided that he wanted to change the name. Some PSYOPS are tricky and controversial, but most are benign. The post-earthquake radio broadcasts the U.S. military orchestrated in Haiti telling people where they could get food were technically PSYOPS, as are posters and radio ads in Iraq informing citizens that if they come across an IED, they should call a certain telephone number to report it.
Among the other options considered was a half-way change: on the battlefield, PSYOPS would remain PSYOPS; in other settings, however -- like in outreach to the Muslim world -- it'd be called MISO. That strategy was abandoned in favor of a full name change.
With word having leaked about the change to the new name, with all its soupy connotations, you can imagine the fun that some soldiers are having with it. The name change is sort of a meta PSYOP (or meta-MISO?).
Since Special Operations Command owns the term, so to speak, formally changing it may well require an act of Congress.
The email is a fascinating insight into how the Pentagon policy shop works.
As for the acronyms: USDP is the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Michelle Flournoy. OGC is the Office of the General Counsel, Jeh Johnson.
For background on the confusion surrounding information operations, see my earlier article.
Pentagon spokespeople declined to comment.
From: Brooks, Rosa CIV OSD POLICY
Sent: Monday, June 28, 2010 4:11 PM
To: NAMES REDACTED
Subject: Yes, "PSYOP" is changing to "MISO"
USDP sought clarification from SecDef and reports that he is comfortable
with a complete PSYOP name change, from PSYOP to Military Information
Support Operations ("MISO" - sounds like a soup, but what can you do? I
guess we could also keep saying MIS).
ADM Olson and GEN Casey's emails and related message traffic have
already leaked out, so now that we have clarity on SD's views, we will
need to move quickly to inform key Congressional and interagency
players, and respond to media queries with this information. (Walter
Pincus from Wash Post as already queried us). My hope is that this will
not be a big deal, but given the sensitivities around PYSOP and the
PSYOP budget, you never know.
Key points to make if asked: This is just a terminological change, not
a substantive change. The term PSYOP was anachronistic and misleading;
Military Information Support is a more accurate description of the
activities and programs at issue. We already use the term "Military
Information Support Teams" to describe the PSYOP personnel who deploy to
embassies and provide support to State Dept public diplomacy efforts;
this more thoroughgoing terminological shift will make our terminology
consistent and help reduce misunderstandings.
If this generates enough Hill or press interest, we may want to pull
together a one-pager from existing congressional reports to explain what
kinds of activities we are talking about.
Meanwhile, we will work with OGC & Leg Affairs to determine whether
formal congressional notification/legislative change is needed to make
this... officially official.
Senior Advisor to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy &
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Rule of Law & International