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Information Operations: Putting the "I" Back Into DIME

Authored by Mr. Robert D. Steele. | February 2006

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The end of the Cold War and the emergence of terrorism; radicalized religion; the proliferation and commoditization of weapons of mass destruction (WMD); and the increased informational and economic power of Arabia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, among others, have brought Information Operations (IO) to the forefront of the unified national security strategy.

In the past year, IO has matured from an early emphasis on the protection of critical infrastructures and against electronic espionage, and is now more focused on content and on interagency information-sharing. The value of information?all information, not only secret information?and the value of global monitoring in all languages, 24/7, have been clearly established by the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence (USDI).

This monograph defines and discusses three IO elements:

  • Strategic Communication (the message);
  • Open Source Intelligence (the reality); and,
  • Joint Information Operations Centers (the technology).
  • These elements are further discussed in relation to six ?IO-heavy? mission areas:

  • Information Operations generally;
  • Peacekeeping Intelligence (reactive);
  • Information Peacekeeping (proactive);
  • Early Warning (conflict deterrence, proactive counterterrorism);
  • Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations; and,
  • Homeland Defense and Civil Support.
  • The monograph concludes with a strategic overview of the various conceptual and technical elements required to meet modern IO needs, and provides a requirements statement that could be tailored to the needs of any Combatant Commander, service, or agency.


    The end of the Cold War and the emergence of terrorism; radicalized religion; the proliferation and commoditization of weapons of mass destruction (WMD); and the increased informational and economic power of Arabia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, among others, have brought Information Operations (IO) to the forefront of the unified national security strategy.2 The administration and Congress both recognize that strategic communication, public diplomacy, and interagency information-sharing and collaboration must be core competencies within a transformed national security arena. Robust interagency information-sharing and collaboration practices will be most effective if there is a common understanding of the real world based on global foreign information acquisition and analysis. This monograph offers a campaign plan for meeting the requirements established by the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence (USDI) in January 2004: universal coverage, 24/7, waged in all languages, extending down to the tribal and neighborhood levels of granularity.3 This proposed capability addresses the specific needs of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and the regional Combatant Commanders (COCOM) and their supporting elements including the services. It also provides for rapid inexpensive replication across all federal, state, and local elements associated with homeland security or national security, and for rapid inexpensive migration to coalition governments and nongovernmental organizations that agree to enter into information-sharing treaties or information-sharing agreements with the Department of Defense (DoD).

    In the Age of Information, the primary source of national power is information that has been converted into actionable intelligence or usable knowledge. According to Alvin and Heidi Toffler, ?Knowledge?in principle inexhaustible?is the ultimate substi- tute.?4 In their book, Power Shift, the Tofflers go on to discuss knowledge as a substitute for wealth, for natural resources, for energy, for violence,5 and even for time and for space. Knowledge?the vast majority of which is not classified?is the ultimate source of national power.

    It is for this reason that Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence (USDI) Dr. Stephen A. Cambone is ?on point? when he demands as his primary objective for Defense information and intelligence: ?universal coverage, 24/7, in all languages in near-real-time, at sub-state levels of granularity.?6 This transformative vision was validated by the Defense Science Board in two seminal studies, Strategic Communication (July 2004), and Transitions to and from Hostilities (December 2004).7

    Achievement of this well-chosen set of objectives demands three separate transformative Information Operations (IO) campaigns, each integrated and extendable down to the state and local levels for Homeland Defense, and also transferable externally to nongovernment (NGO) and other organizations controlling the 90 percent of information that will never be readily available to classified agencies:8

    Information-Sharing: the creation of joint interagency information-sharing and collaboration networks and centers whose capabilities can be replicated quickly and inexpensively by, among others, homeland security elements including states and counties, NGOs, universities, and coalition partners.9 This capability ensures that what we already know, or what our allies already know, can be readily shared with all concerned.

    Global Monitoring: the establishment of a mission-oriented global information monitoring system that can master the full spectrum of available information in all languages10 and that is both tailored to defense needs and responsive to operational tempo (i.e. effective in near-real-time).

    Translation: the establishment of a man-machine foreign language translation network that can collect, process, and exploit foreign language information, both written and verbal, in real-time, at the tactical, operational, and technical levels.11

    This monograph outlines how we might integrate three IO elements?Strategic Communication (the message), open Source Intelligence (the reality), and, Joint Intelligence Operations Centers (the technology)12in support of six distinct ?IO-heavy? operational missions:

    • Information Operations,
    • Peacekeeping Intelligence (reactive),
    • Information Peacekeeping (proactive, preventive),
    • Early Warning (conflict deterrence, proactive counterterrorism),
    • Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations, and
    • Homeland Defense and Civil Support.

    Concurrently we must also revitalize national education and national research in tandem with the foundation of national power in the Age of Information.

    It is imperative that DoD integrate the design, funding, and management of all three IO elements into one coherent whole. Addressing any one of them in isolation is a prescription for failure.13 It is also imperative that we follow the USSOCOM lead and recognize that finished secret intelligence is a fraction of the secret information available to us, and that all raw information?secret, unclassified, operational, logistic?must be brought together across distributed ?pits? that are able to share all relevant information with one another.

    Figure 1 shows an advance view of this monograph?s concluding illustration. The monograph will explain why it will be helpful to DoD IO.

    Modern IO is not about the old messages of psychological operations (PSYOPS), but rather about empowering billions of people with both information tools and access to truthful information. It is about education, not manipulation. It is about sharing, not secrecy. It is about human understanding to create wealth and stabilize societies, not about the threat of violence and the delivery of precision munitions. IO substitutes information for violence.


    1. DIME: Diplomatic, Information, Military, Economic.

    2. Although reformists have called for a unified national security budget process, this is still not practiced. The diplomatic budget (Program 150) and the military budget (Program 50) are devised in isolation from one another, while the information and economic budgets are scattered across multiple jurisdictions. Considerable savings, and a considerable enhancement of U.S. national security as well as national competitiveness, could be achieved if there were a unified national security planning, programming, and budgeting system (PPBS) that integrated both acquisition and operational campaign planning across diplomatic, information, military, and economic jurisdictions; and if ?total information awareness? were centered on public information using Google and other available open systems, rather than being centered on secret information and closed intelligence systems that lack access to 90 percent of the relevant information.

    3. Dr. Stephen Cambone articulated this requirement in a speech to the Security Affairs Support Association (SASA), the premier forum for senior executives in both government and industry who are engaged in intelligence support operations. See full text at www.oss.net/extprovided, and also at www. oss.net/extra/news/?module_instance= 1 &id= 2369. ra/news/?id= 2354, where additional commentary is

    4. Alvin and Heidi Toffler, PowerShift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century, Infinite Wealth: A New World of Collaboration and Abundance in the Knowledge Era, Butterworth Heinemann, 1999.Bantam Books, 1990, p. 86. The Tofflers are investigative journalists and researchers at heart, and tend to do direct interviews and exploit raw information sources rather than secondary sources. They complement and are in total harmony with such other extraordinary current works as Thomas Stewart, The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-First Century Organization, Currency, 2001; and Barry Carter,

    5. Their discussion of knowledge in relation to violence is contained in War and Anti-War: Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century, Little Brown & Company, 1993, where the chapter on ?The Future of the Spy? provides the first major public discussion of ?the rival store? that focuses on open sources of information in all languages. They also addressed this theme when speaking in 1993 to the second annual international conference on ?National Security & National Competitiveness: Open Source Solutions,? in Washington, DC, November 2, 1993. The complete text of their remarks to this audience of over 800 predominantly U.S. military officers is available online at tinyurl.com/dzwbz.

    6. Supra note 2.

    7. Both reports are downloadable at the Defense Science Board web site, under Reports, at www.acq.osd.mil/dsb/reports.htmunderpins this monograph is Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Homeland Security Gordon England?s Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support, June 2005, available online at www.defenselink.mil/news/Jun2005/d20050630homeland.pdf. Careful reading of these reports will document two critical strategic and transformative themes common to all three: (1) information-sharing, exploiting all sources in all languages all the time, is the central tenet of defense in the age of information; and (2) nongovernmental organizations external to the U.S., and county-level law enforcement and civil organizations at the lowest level of the U.S. domestic governance hierarchy, must be included in defense information-sharing, at a cost they can afford (which is to say, at almost no cost to them) for access to ?the network.? This makes it clear that classified networks are not, repeat, not the answer to the larger challenge of global information monitoring and sharing. The third DoD publication that

    8. The ideal approach to global information capture and exploitation is one in which diplomatic arrangements (the negotiation of information-sharing treaties with nations and information-sharing agreements with organizations) are implemented by the military using the civil affairs model, under J-3 operational control. Only when the information is ?inside the wire,? should it be subject to J-2 quality control and oversight.

    9.One of the most important lessons learned from the GWOT is that intelligence is the smallest part of the information-sharing challenge, although also the most difficult to break out of the stovepipes. External open sources of information, operational traffic, logistics information, and acquisition capabilities and countermeasures information are all vital parts of the IO mosaic. Novices argue about sharing classified information; mid-level experts argue about U.S. Government interagency information-sharing; the real masters understand, as the Swedes have taught us, that the ?endgame? in IO is about multinational, multiagency, multidisciplinary, multidomain information-sharing, M4 IS. As the Jolt cola commercial says, ?Dare to want it all.? For a report on the 3rd Annual Peacekeeping Intelligence Conference in Stockholm, Sweden, December 4-5, 2004, site of the first recorded mention of M4 IS, see the trip report at tinyurl.com/a4f4r.

    10. There are 33 core languages (Arabic, Aramaic, Berber, Catalan, Chinese, Danish, Dari, Dutch, English, Farsi, Finnish, French, German, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Kurdish, Kurmanji, Norwegian, Pashto, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Turkish, and Urdu) within which Arabic has at least 12 nuanced variants: Andalusi Arabic (extinct, but having an important role in literary history); Egyptian Arabic (Egypt), considered the most widely understood and used ?second dialect?; Gulf Arabic (Gulf coast from Kuwait to Oman, and minorities on the other side); Hassaniiya (in Mauritania); Hijazi Arabic; Iraqi Arabic; Levantine Arabic (Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian, and western Jordanian); Maghreb Arabic (Tunisian, Algerian, Moroccan, and western Libyan); Maltese; Najdi Arabic; Sudanese Arabic (with a dialect continuum into Chad); and Yemeni Arabic.

    11. Machine translation and online dictionaries are completely inadequate to this challenge at this time, as are the limited number of U.S. citizens eligible for clearances. However, it is possible, if we break away from the rigid obsession with using only U.S. citizens with clearances, to create a global network of machine translation, innovative tailored online dictionaries; and a very broad network of near-real-time human monitors, reporters, and translators who post material to the web as it becomes available, with translations and subject-matter annotations. The key here is to make the network multinational rather than unilateral.

    12. The I in JIOC is for Intelligence, the C can stand for Center or Command, depending on how the COCOM wants to adapt the concept. Some, like EUCOM, appear to desire a command with all the authorities inherent in command, while other COCOMs are more comfortable with it being a center, so they do not have to tackle the challenges associated with breaking down the stovepipe authorities that plague the COCOMs. USDI?s intent appears to be the establishment of a functional intelligence construct similar to the Joint Force Air Component Commander, JFACC, or Ground Component Commander, GCC, who would have all the authority to conduct the fight for knowledge, to include the protection component of the fight for information. While some interpret the I as standing for Information, or Interagency, USDI?s intent appears to be for it to represent Intelligence, but in the broadest interpretation of the word, embracing all available information in all languages and at all levels of classification across all mission areas.

    13. Peter Drucker, writing in Forbes ASAP on August 24, 1998, at p. 46:

    The next information revolution is well under way. But it is not happening where information scientists, information executives, and the information industry in general are looking for it. It is not a revolution in technology, machinery, techniques, software, or speed. It is a revolution in CONCEPTS. So far, for 50 years, the information revolution has centered on . . . the ?T? in IT. The next information revolution asks, What is the MEANING of information, and what is its PURPOSE? And this is leading rapidly to redefining the tasks to be done with the help of information, and with it, to redefining the institutions that do these tasks. . . . We can already discern and define the next . . . task in developing an effective information systems for top management: the collection and organization of OUTSIDE-focused information.