“Bullets and Blogs: New Media and the Warfighter” (2.7mb PDF) is a very new agey text. The report emerged from the finding of a workshop tasked with the question: How must battlefield communication change to adapt to this twitterin’ bloggin media-rich battlespace? The report is fascinating, and focuses on the Iraq/Afghanistan-relevant idea that rapidly broadcasting a media-rich ‘version of the truth’ to enemies and allies alike must be synchronized with conventional military strategy. At its root however is the rapid production of history across all mediums, and faster than the enemy:
“This report is rich with soundbites and recommendations supported by examples, including operations where the insurgents were the first to write the first draft of history, the draft that usually sticks especially when a factual challenge is not made within days or weeks.” (via Mountainrunner)
A comment by Cliff W. Gilmore, a US public military affairs officer speaks to speed vs. timeliness:
…the need to push information out quickly (speed) is a primary learning point highlighted in Bullets & Blogs. This is a media-focused learning point that differs significantly from the concept of timeliness, which has to do with who needs what information when. It’s easy to get distracted by the “wiz-bang!” of the communication environment and forget that a message doesn’t have to get there FAST — it just needs to arrive on time.
This is not to suggest that speed is not a factor in the new battlespace, just that it should not be a primary focus. There are several things we should be better at than speed. Credibility, trust, accuracy, timeliness, unified voice, privacy, intentional communication, delegation, security — and balancing them against one another — come to mind.
Findings in the Executive Summary
In summary, to achieve strategic agility in the information age, DOD should consider the following priority issues:
• Recognize that the winning strategy is “information engagement,” not “information control;”
• Embrace new media as a significant enabler of “that element of combat power called information;”
• Prioritize research and development, and organizational change, to exploit new media as a warfighting capability;
• Educate digital immigrants to begin the process of cultural change;
• Exploit digital natives – encourage, educate, empower, and equip;
• Enhance DOD’s capacity for commanding the attention and trust of key audiences through improved capacities for appropriate messaging, achieving a distributed global presence on relevant media, and finding and leveraging suitable messengers (third- party validators);
• Prioritize agility in the information environment, by:
» Enhancing speed of communication through: proactive information engagement; more refined classification efforts; in-field declassification authorities and capabilities; and, the removal of barriers to inter-agency and inter-service declassification;
» Moving towards decentralized authority and decentralized execution by setting the information rules of engagement;
» Identifying and mitigating risk, through a more sophisticated risk assessment process; » Ensuring commanders have non-lethal options commensurate with traditional lethal
» Requiring commanders to define the desired information endstate; » Exploiting new media for better measures of effectiveness; Streamline DOD policies and guidance; Synchronize, synchronize, synchronize — across all-of-government; Pursue a holistic approach; Engage the legal debate.
Now if only the DOD could control what information gets back to the US from Iraq…