As dramatic changes in society are redefining the role of communication in organizational leadership across civil industry in the democratized world, a similar topic of professionalism is inspiring new conversations among U.S. military leaders. Public affairs officers and military researchers have identified challenges that complicate the best use of communication talent in the military. Insufficient training, how and where many public affairs officers are placed within unit organizational staffs, and unit cultures have historically marginalized the career field, inhibiting the inculcation of a professional ethos across the public affairs community.
Although the vehicle of social media has certainly increased the speed by which disinformation reaches its recipients, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to sow internal division among his adversaries is in no way a novel undertaking, and western leaders should be hesitant to paint Russian propaganda as an earth-shaking revelation in the 21st century. This isn’t a reinvention of Russia’s unconventional warfare paradigm; it’s a continuation of it.
Ultimately, the best defense in information warfare is resilience—the ability to critically assess a dynamic information environment where everything is not always what it seems and manage the identified risks to ensure mission success. In a military context, this could include adapting basic and advanced levels of training to include fostering a deeper understanding for how information warfare is changing the nature of conflict, and how every service member’s actions can and will be used against them in a digital age.
In a hyper-connected world, one can no longer just put messaging out there. Once a message is pushed out, control of it is lost, and an adversary can and will subvert and shatter it into myriad distortions that ricochet back and hurt the sender. Likewise, any actions on the ground contradicting the messaging, will also be used to attack the sender aiming to erode public faith at home by exploiting hypocrisy, creating ambiguity and, ideally, disrupting decision-making.