Defense Science Board Task Force Reports

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Task Force Reports of the Defense Science Board

Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication

Office of the Under Secretary of Defense For Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Washington, D.C. 20301-3140, September 2004.

This report is a product of the Defense Science Board (DSB). The DSB is a Federal Advisory Committee established to provide independent advice to the Secretary of Defense. Statements, opinions, conclusions, and recommendations in this report do not necessarily represent the official position of the Department of Defense.

This report is UNCLASSIFIED.

Strategic Communication Task Force Membership:

  • Chairman, Mr. Vince Vitto - C.S. Draper Laboratory
  • Executive Secretary, Mr. Mark Ellis - OUSD

Members: Dr. Anita Jones - University of Virginia
Mr. Bran Ferren - Applied Minds, Inc.
Mr. Bruce Gregory - George Washington University
Mr. Dan Kuehl - National Defense University
Dr. Joe Markowitz - Consultant
Mr. David Morey - DMG, Inc.
Mr. Robert Nesbit - The Mitre Corporation
Dr. Michael Vlahos - Johns Hopkins University

Government Advisors: Mr. Joel Fischman - Department of State
Mr. David Jakubek - DDR&E
Mr. Chris Lamb - National Defense University
Mr. John Matheny - Department of Defense SO/LIC
Mr. Lloyd Neighbors - Department of State
Mr. William Parker - Department of State
Mr. Robert Reilly - Department of Defense

Support: Ms. Nicole Coene - SAIC
Mr. Mark Mateski - SAIC DSB Secretariat
LtCol David Robertson - DSB

Executive Summary:

The Defense Science Board Summer Study on the Transition to and from Hostilities was formed in early 2004 (the terms of reference are contained in Appendix A) and culminated in the production of a final report and summary briefing in August of 2004. The DSB Task Force on Strategic Communication conducted its deliberations within the overall Summer Study schedule and revisited a topic that was addressed in October 2001.

Task Force members and Government advisors are identified in Appendix B. The current Strategic Communication Task Force re-examined the purposes of strategic communication and the salience of recommendations in the earlier study. It then considered the following questions:

(1) What are the consequences of changes in the strategic communication environment?
(2) What Presidential direction and strategic communication means are required?
(3) What should be done about public diplomacy and open military information operations?

The Task Force met with representatives from the National Security Council (NSC), White House Office of Global Communications, Department of State (DOS), Department of Defense (DOD), Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), and the private sector (the schedule of meetings, briefings and discussions is contained in Appendix C). Based on extensive interaction with a broad range of sectors in the government, commercial, and academic worlds, as well as a series of highly interactive internal debates, we have reached the following conclusions and recommendations.

This Task Force concludes that U.S. strategic communication must be transformed. America's negative image in world opinion and diminished ability to persuade are consequences of factors other than failure to implement communications strategies. Interests collide. Leadership counts. Policies matter. Mistakes dismay our friends and provide enemies with unintentional assistance. Strategic communication is not the problem, but it is a problem.

Understanding the problem. Strategic communication is a vital component of U.S. national security. It is in crisis, and it must be transformed with a strength of purpose that matches our commitment to diplomacy, defense, intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security. Presidential leadership and the bipartisan political will of Congress are essential. Collaboration between government and the private sector on an unprecedented scale is imperative.

To succeed, we must understand the United States is engaged in a generational and global struggle about ideas, not a war between the West and Islam. It is more than a war against the tactic of terrorism. We must think in terms of global networks, both government and non-government. If we continue to concentrate primarily on states ("getting it right" in Iraq, managing the next state conflict better), we will fail. Chapter 2 of this report examines the complex nature of this new paradigm and implications for sustained and imaginative action.

Strategic communication requires a sophisticated method that maps perceptions and influence networks, identifies policy priorities, formulates objectives, focuses on "doable tasks," develops themes and messages, employs relevant channels, leverages new strategic and tactical dynamics, and monitors success. This approach will build on in-depth knowledge of other cultures and factors that motivate human behavior. It will adapt techniques of skillful political campaigning, even as it avoids slogans, quick fixes, and mind sets of winners and losers. It will search out credible messengers and create message authority. It will seek to persuade within news cycles, weeks, and months. It will engage in a respectful dialogue of ideas that begins with listening and assumes decades of sustained effort. Just as importantly, through evaluation and feedback, it will enable political leaders and policymakers to make informed decisions on changes in strategy, policies, messages, and choices among instruments of statecraft. Chapter 3 of this report addresses ways in which strategic communication can be generated and managed with effect.

We need to move beyond outdated concepts, stale structural models, and institutionally-based labels. Public diplomacy, public affairs, psychological operations (PSYOP) and open military information operations must be coordinated and energized. Chapter 4 of this report recommends changes in the strategic communication functions and structures of the Departments of State and Defense, U.S. embassies and combatant commands. Leadership from the top. A unifying vision of strategic communication starts with Presidential direction. Only White House leadership, with support from cabinet secretaries and Congress, can bring about the sweeping reforms that are required.

Nothing shapes U.S. policies and global perceptions of U.S. foreign and national security objectives more powerfully than the President's statements and actions, and those of senior officials. Interests, not public opinion, should drive policies. But opinions must be taken into account when policy options are considered and implemented. At a minimum, we should not be surprised by public reactions to policy choices. Policies will not succeed unless they are communicated to global and domestic audiences in ways that are credible and allow them to make informed, independent judgments. Words in tone and substance should avoid offence where possible; messages should seek to reduce, not increase, perceptions of arrogance, opportunism, and double standards. These objectives mean officials must take full advantage of powerful tools to measure attitudes, understand cultures, and assess influence structures – not occasionally but as an iterative process. Policies and strategic communication cannot be separated.

Swift and sustained Presidential direction is also required to connect strategy to structure. In 1947, America confronted new threats and opportunities as well. The President with bipartisan support in Congress carried out policy and organizational initiatives that shaped U.S. national security for two generations. Today, we face challenges of similar magnitude, made more formidable by a world where geography, military power, and time to react are no longer sufficient to ensure our security. Strategic communication and other 21st century instruments of statecraft require changes different in kind but similar in scale to the National Security Act of 1947 and the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986.

These changes will occur only with sustained, enthusiastic, and deeply committed Presidential leadership – and the collaborative and bipartisan support of the Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees of Congress.

Government-private sector partnership. Finding new ways to harness strategic communication to the flexibility and creative imagination of the private sector will be central to successful strategic communication in the 21st century. The commercial sector has a dominant competitive edge in multi-media production, opinion and media surveys, information technologies, program evaluation, and measuring the influence of communications. Academic and research communities offer vast untapped resources for education, training, area and language expertise, planning and consultative services. Effective sharing between government and society in the conduct of strategic communication is not new. Government grants to private organizations have long been a way to carry out international educational and cultural exchanges, foreign opinion polling, democratization and media training programs, and much of U.S. international broadcasting. Grants extend the reach of government programs and capitalize on the expertise and flexibility of non-government partner organizations.

Recent study groups, including the October 2001 Defense Science Board Task Force, have recommended more extensive collaboration. These observers see value not only in leveraging private sector competencies but in new structures and a degree of distance that attracts credible messengers with non-government resumes, creative thinkers and talented communicators uncomfortable working with government agencies, and skilled, language-qualified professionals available for temporary crisis deployment.

Collaboration between government and the many benefits of private sector thinking and skills should be strongly encouraged. The complexity of strategic communication problems calls for balanced coordination of effort. Independent analysis is required in a wide range of fields: cultures and values, international intellectual engagement, communications studies, and applied science. Teamwork among civilian agencies and military services will be necessary to draw effectively on the seminars of universities, professional skills of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and imagination of the media production industry. Appropriate controls and risk assessment will be needed. For all their strengths, private organizations represent particular interests. Investments in strategic communication must be grounded in the public interest as determined by appropriate executive branch and Congressional authorities.

Election cycles and episodic commitment have shaped implementation of U.S. strategic communication for more than half a century. New thinking and new collaborative structures hold promise of a transformed and continuous strategic communication capability that serves America's interests.

The Task Force has made a set of recommendations listed below which we believe will make a significant difference . The time line and scale of their impact is difficult to quantify but we will not succeed in revitalizing Strategic Communication if we tinker around the edges. Given the enormous challenges we face, we can succeed only if we use all the instruments of national power. We should expect to see some progress within a year but we are dealing with at least a decade to have a significant impact. US public diplomacy efforts in the Cold War, the creation of the Peace Corps and the launch of a new brand or product within the private sector in a highly competitive environment are examples of efforts that have required comparable time scales and the challenges we face today are potentially more complex. We must begin and maintain our intensity and focus until we succeed.

The following is available status information regarding Defense Science Board Task Force Reports. For biographical information of individual task force chairmen/co-chairmen, please refer to the lists/links included at Defense Science Board.

May 2002 DSB Task Force Status

  • Dr. William Schneider, Jr., Chairman
  • Dr. Vincent Vitto, Vice Chairman
  • John V. Ello, Executive Director
  • 2002 Summer Study: Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism (Co-Chairs: Dr. Ted Gold and Don Latham) The study, co-sponsored by USD(AT&L), JFCOM and S&TS, will address how the Department of Defense can strengthen the military operational capability of its special operations forces and other joint forces against potential terrorist threats and other asymmetric threats.(CDR Hughes)
  • 2001 Summer Study: Defense S&T (Co-chairs: Larry Lynn & Dr. Anita Jones) The study co-sponsored by USD(AT&L) and DUSD(S&T) addressed issues involved to assure the US continues to gain access to and develop technology from which to gain military advantage. The final report is in security review.(LtCol Basl)
  • Chemical Warfare Defense (Co-chairs: Dr. George Whitesides & Dr. Regina Dugan) This study, co-sponsored by USD(AT&L) and DARPA, is assessing the possibility of controlling the risk and consequences of a CW attack to acceptable levels within the next five years. The Task Force is drafting a final report.(LTC Kendrick)
  • E-Commerce (Co-chairs: Dr. Ronald L. Kerber & Dr. Mike Frankel) This study, co-sponsored by USD(AT&L) and Director of Defense Procurement, is reviewing the DoD's current implementation status of e-commerce tools. Appropriate recommendations will be made to enhance this opportunity for cost reduction, capital and manpower efficiency. The Task Force has drafted a final report. (LTC Kendrick)
  • Training for Future Conflicts (Co-chairs: Dr. Joe Braddock & Dr. Ralph Chatham) This study, co-sponsed by USD(AT&L) and Director for Readiness and Training in OUSD(P&R), is a follow-on to the Jan 2001 Training Superiority & Training Surprise report. The Task Force will identify and characterize the education and training demanded by JV 2020 which are markedly different from what is being done today. Operating under a revised TOR with added emphasis on joint and interoperability training, the Task Force should produce a report in July 2002.(LtCol Basl) DSB Secretariat StaffTask Force Status
  • Operation Enduring Freedom Lessons Learned (Chair: Gen James McCarthy) This study, co-sponsored by USD(AT&L), VCJS & CENTCOM, is examining current activities of Operation Enduring Freedom to determine both near and long-term technical & operational considerations that could be used to improve this operation and future campaigns initiated in the War Against Terrorism. The Final Report is in draft.(LTC Kendrick)
  • Aircraft Carriers of the Future (Chairman: Dr. Bill Howard, Vice Chairman: ADM Don Pilling, USN (Ret)) This study, co-sponsored by USD(AT&L) and Director, Strategic & Tactical Systems concentrated on the increased need to fulfill the presence and warfighting mission that aircraft carriers perform. The carrier battle group has been the mainstay of our combat-credible forward presence and the Task Force examined its applicability and potential for transformation in the future. The final report is in Security Review.(CDR Hughes)
  • Discriminant Use of Force. (Co-Chairs: Dr. Joshua Lederberg & Dr. Ted Gold) This study, co-sponsored by USD(AT&L) and S&TS, is conducting a comprehensive study of the ends and means of precision compellence, of the nuanced use of force, in concert with coalition partners, to achieve political, economic, etc changes in countries affecting US interests. The Task Force is in progress. (LtCol Basl)
  • Defense Against Terrorists' Use of Biological Weapons (Co-Chairs: Dr. Skalka & Larry Lynn) This study, co-sponsored by DARPA and DTRA, is assessing the scope of activities conducted by the DoD to ensure its ability to respond to an attack of the US homeland by terrorists using biological weapons. The Task Force is in progress. (CDR Hughes)
  • Intelligence in Support of the War Against Terrorism (Co-Chairs: Dr. Joe Markowitz and ADM Bill Studeman) This study, co-sponsored by USD(AT&L), ASD(C3I), and DCI will identify capabilities, technologies and approaches for strengthening intelligence in support of the war against terrorism. (CDR Hughes)
  • Defense against Unconventional Use of Nuclear Weapons Against the U.S. (Co-Chairs: Dr. William Graham and Dr. Richard Wagner) This study, co-sponsored by USD(AT&L) and the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Nuclear and Chemical and Biological Defense Programs) (ATSD)(NCB), will assess the adequacy of the U.S. ability to detect, identify, respond, and prevent unconventional nuclear attacks by terrorist or sub-national entities.(LTC Kendrick)
  • Wideband RF Systems (Chairman: Dr. Gary Minden) This study, co-sponsored by USD(AT&L) and ASD(C3I) will review and advise on key aspects of the policy and technology issues associated with the military applications of Wideband RF systems. (LtCol Basl)
  • Role and Status of DoD Red Teaming Activities (Co-Chairs: Dr. Ted Gold and Dr. Bob Hermann) This study, co-sponsored by USD(AT&L) and the Director, Strategic and Tactical Systems (S&TS), will review the role and status of Red Teaming in the DoD and recommend ways to make it a more effective tool.(LTC Kendrick)

(As of this report, no DSB Reports had been published since February 2002.)

Additional Study Groups

  • 2002 Summer Study: Missile Defense (Co-Chairs: Gen Larry Welch & Dr. William Graham) The study, co-sponsored by USD(AT&L) and MDA, will initially report on five areas: counter-countermeasures; boost phase technology; battle management and command, control, and communications; international cooperation; and the evolution of ballistic missile threats. (LtCol Basl)[1]
  • 2001 Summer Study: Precision Targeting (Co-chairs: Mr. Vince Vitto & Robert Nesbit) The study co-sponsored by USD(AT&L) and Director, Strategic and Tactical Systems, examined the full range of the process from target selection, location and identification through mission execution and damage assessment. The final report has now been published.(CDR Hughes)[2]
  • Intel Needs for Homeland Defense (Follow-on) (Co-Chairs: Dr. Ruth David and Peter Marino) The study, sponsored by USD(AT&L), ASD(C3I) & DCI, explored the intelligence ramifications posed by biological, chemical, information, nuclear, and radiological threats to the United States. The final report has now been published.(CDR Hughes)[3]
  • Vulnerability Assessment (Co-chairs: Dr. Joshua Lederberg & Michael Bayer) The study, sponsored by USD(AT&L), was tasked to provide an analytic framework for assessing potential terrorism attacks on CONUS within the next 12 months. (LtColBasl)[4]

DSB Reports Published Since October 2001:

  • OCTOBER: Managed Information Dissemination
  • DECEMBER: 2001 Summer Study: Precision Targeting
  • JANUARY: Intelligence Needs for Homeland Defense

Defense Science Board Report: Protecting the Homeland. Report of the Defense Science Board 2000 Summer Study. Executive Summary. February 2001. Volume I.
Defense Science Board Report: Protecting the Homeland. Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Unconventional Nuclear Warfare Defense, 2000 Summer Study. July 1, 2001. Volume III.

2000 Summer Study Task Force Chairs were: George Poste, Roger Hagengruber, Larry Wright, Ruth David and Peter Marino.[5]