Why Unmanned Systems Are The Go-To Option for Gray Zone Ops in the Gulf

Securing the Gulf Topic Week

By Heiko Borchert


Current incidents in the Arabian Sea should be seized as an opportunity to advance naval conceptual thinking about unmanned maritime systems in gray zone operations. Gray zone activities are an astute object for concept development, as they “creep up on their goals gradually,” rather than involving decisive moves, as Michael Mazarr has argued. In response, Mazarr contends, gray zone operations will “call for a greater emphasis on innovation” as these operations take different forms and intensities and thus require varied responses. This coincides with the general need to devote more attention to concepts development that drives the use of new naval technologies such as unmanned systems.

Applying Unmanned Systems to Gulf Security

Maritime stability in the Arabian Sea has deteriorated significantly over the past couple of weeks. In response to the Iranian seizure of the Stena Imperio, a Swedish oil tanker under British flag, London reached out to different European capitals in view of establishing a maritime protection mission escorting commercial vessels through the Strait of Hormuz.

This incident and prior events in the Arabian Sea such as harassing commercial vessels with speedboats and assaults on commercial vessels are a perfect illustration of so-called gray zone activities. Located between war and peace, gray zone activities involve “coercive actions to change the status quo below a threshold that, in most cases, would prompt a conventional military response,” as Lyle J. Morris and others have suggested.

These activities raise an obvious question: How best to respond? Staying out of the region for an interim period, as the British government has advised U.K. shipping, has been interpreted as a watershed moment “when the UK admits it can no longer protect its merchant vessels.” But even if political support for the maritime protection mission matured, the question would remain if there were enough adequate platforms to do the job.

Deploying big capital ships or surface combatants to escort merchant vessels might send a strong message of resolve to Iran, but doubts remain if this approach is adequate. Past experiences in the Arabian Sea have made it clear that naval vessels remain vulnerable to speedboats operating at a high tempo in distributed maneuver operations. While this is certainly only one method of attack, it is most important for strategic communication. Small boats successfully attacking or deterring prestigious naval ships delivers a message that all gray zone actors want to convey.

It is time to supply navies with an additional option using unmanned systems. Unmanned maritime systems (UMS) have been developed and used for quite some time, but right now, the majority of unmanned maritime systems are used for mine countermeasures. There is an obvious operational need to do the job, concepts of operations are in place, and technology is mature. This makes a perfect fit, but more can be done.

Unlike gray zone activities in the South China Sea that involve the building of artificial islands to underline sovereignty claims and the use of naval militia and the coast guard to intimidate neighbors, Iran’s actions are of a different quality. In the Arabian Sea, mosaic defense emphasizes mass, speed, and surprise. Unmanned maritime systems would be ideal to respond because they can be built to be lost. This levels out current asymmetries between speed boats and big capital ships and denies the adversary the offensive on strategic communications. This attrition-like role is only one mission UMS could play in future maritime protection missions. Overall, the mission envelope could be much broader.

First, assuming that a maritime protection mission depends on persistent situational awareness and understanding, unmanned systems can be used to collect intelligence and provide reconnaissance. For this mission the emphasis should be on closing the sensor chain from seabed activities through the undersea world to the sea surface into airspace and space. In all of these domains unmanned systems are already in use, but more needs to be done to fuse data to augment the existing Recognized Maritime Pictures (RMP), for example to detect anomalies stemming from adversarial behavior at sea.

Second, unmanned systems at sea can push the defense perimeter out. Forward deployed unmanned surface vehicles (USV) could be used to intimidate an adversary’s embarking speed boat fleet thus delaying the launch of operations and creating “noise” that would send alarms to the RMP. A more wicked though not yet technically mature option would focus on very small, mine-like unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV). These assets could be deployed covertly by submarines or by air assets. These UUV could turn into a sort of adhesive explosives that stick to boats running over them, thus rendering them dysfunctional.

Third, unmanned maritime systems could be used for deception operations. A swarm of USV could enter a theater of operation disguised as a big capital ship on the adversary’s sensors. As the adversary prepares to counter the ship the USV swarm would disperse into many different smaller platforms thus out tricking the adversarial defense posture. A similar mission can be envisaged for the underwater domain where UUV are already used to imitate the signature of submarines.

Fourth, USVs could constitute the outer ring of maritime protection missions. Robust platforms could be equipped with remote-controlled weapon stations, like the Protector USV developed by Rafael Advanced Systems, to engage incoming speed boats or flying platforms. In addition, USV could be used to deploy electronic counter-measures, for example, to jam adversarial sensors and take out communications between unmanned aerial assets and the respective control units. 


While some of these ideas are closer to reality than others, what matters most is that concepts and operational requirements need to drive the use of unmanned maritime systems in gray zone operations. So far, the discussion about UMS mainly focuses on providing solutions to meet the needs that emerge in naval warfare areas such as mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, or anti-surface warfare. However, gray zone activities cut across all of these tasks. Adequate responses need to adopt a more horizontal approach, as well looking at the technological building blocks that can be used for all missions. Here, the most recent decision of Belgium and the Netherlands to develop a toolbox of unmanned systems for mine-countermeasures shows the way to the future. This approach could be turned into a holistic concept to deal with UMS for maritime gray zone activities.

Putting extra emphasis on innovation and concepts development also opens up avenues for fruitful cooperation with the Gulf states that step up efforts to expand their own naval capabilities while at the same time ramping up efforts to establish a local naval industrial base. Involving them from the start would make sure that specific regional requirements could be adequately addressed while at the same time contributing toward building up local technology expertise in important  areas and incentivizing the establishment of local capabilities and concepts. In the long run this joint approach could help shoulder the burden to provide maritime stability in one of the world’s most pivotal regions.

Dr. Heiko Borchert runs Borchert Consulting & Research AG, a strategic affairs consultancy.

Featured Image: A Bladerunner craft fitted with the MAST system. (Wikimedia Commons)

Escorting in the Persian Gulf: Firefighting, Policing, or Bodyguarding?

Securing the Gulf Topic Week

By Salvatore R. Mercogliano, Ph.D.


The recent attacks on merchant shipping in the Persian Gulf, Straits of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman by forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has conjured up images from the Tanker War of the 1980s. The bombing of four ships at anchor off Fujairah, the mining of two tankers as they departed the area, and the recent seizure of a British tanker has raised the question of how to best protect commercial ships plying their trade. This is an age-old problem that has been with nations and navies since the days of oars and sail. Without a rehash of every concept used since the dawn of time, there are three major methods that come to mind that can be readily adopted.

Historical Background

Before delving into these concepts, it is best to look at the most recent history, and that is from the aforementioned Tanker Wars of the 1980s. Starting in 1981, Iraq and Iran were engaged in a border conflict that quickly spilled over into the Persian Gulf. Iraqi aircraft targeted Iranian tankers with air-launched sea skimming missiles to economically weaken their enemy. Since Iraq exported its oil via overland pipeline, Iran eventually countered by striking the allies of Iraq, particularly the tankers using ports in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. By 1987, the level of combat had reached such a crescendo that the state of Kuwait sought outside assistance to guard their fleet. After making overtures to both the Soviet Union and the United States, it was the latter who agreed to commence convoy operations, but only if the ships were registered under the American flag. From that point on, the U.S. Navy orchestrated convoys into and out of the Persian Gulf but included only American vessels.

From the beginning, challenges emerged in the convoy system. The first outbound convoy from Kuwait encountered an Iranian-laid minefield. Bridgeton, one of the eleven reflagged tankers, struck a mine. Without any minesweeping equipment on board the escorts, and with fear what a mine could do to the warships, they fell in behind Bridgeton as she plowed her way through the Persian Gulf as the world’s largest ad-hoc minesweeper. Eventually, a system of escorts and mine clearance assets allowed the U.S. to safely move ships through the challenged waters. Fast forward thirty years, the question posed is how can the nations of the world, who depend on commerce from the Persian Gulf, secure the area from potential Iranian threats and attacks? 

A helicopter from the USS Chandler helps rescue 40 crew from a Cypriot registered oil tanker, Pivot, after it was attacked and set ablaze by an Iranian warship. It was coming from Saudi Arabia with crude oil. Circa 12 Dec. 1987 (Norbert Schiller photo)

One of the overriding issues that must be addressed is the international nature of global shipping. According to the United Nation’s Review of Maritime Transport 2018, half of the world’s merchant fleet vessels are registered in the Marshall Islands, Liberia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malta. It is very unlikely that parent navies will be providing the necessary escorts for ships registered in these countries, except China covering those of Hong Kong. The use of open registries, or flags of convenience, developed after the Second World War and has proliferated. Even the captured Stena Impero, while flying the flag of the United Kingdom, does not employ any British nationals onboard. The initial question becomes is it the responsibility of the navies of the world, such as the United States, to assume the role of escort? The U.S. did not do so in the Tanker War until ships flying the American flag were attacked. If they do assume the mantle of protector, it does raise the question of what is the advantage of registering a ship under one’s own national flag?

Assuming the national command authority authorizes an escort of vessels in the area, the next question is method. There are many historical examples, from the Napoleonic Wars, the First World War, the Second World War, and the many scenarios conjured up from wargames against NATO and the Soviet Union in a possible third Battle of the Atlantic. These many iterations boil down to three basic types.

Operational Methods for Convoy Escort

First, there is the Bodyguard method of escorting. Whenever the President of the United States, or some other high value individual travels in the public domain, we are used to seeing a phalanx of armed guards, with high-tech weapons, armored vehicles and escorts swarming around their primary target. They are using many techniques, but one of the most immediate is the use of fear. Any assault on the target will be met with overwhelming force and hence they utilize a deterrent strategy. However, even with such a heavily armed escort, this does not mean that an attack is impossible, as we know from history. A truly determined enemy will rarely be swayed from their intended goal, no matter the obstacle.

At first, this method seems to be the option with the best outcome as it provides the most protection and can quickly respond to any potential threat. However, the issue with the Secret Service option is the cost and logistics involved. It requires a tremendous amount of resources and planning to orchestrate any movement. Currently, ships freely move through the area as soon as they are loaded. A Secret Service style convoy operation will mean ships will have to be gathered, wait, and delay their intended offload – thereby disrupting the movement of their cargoes and impacting the economics of their trade. It will also require a large commitment by navies to provide the needed escorts for any such operation.

The second operational method is the Policing method. In any community, town, or city in the United States, the police forces are in their cruisers, on their bikes, or in the air, monitoring and patrolling. The intent of these patrols is to deter crime, but also observe areas and provide quick response should an incident occur. Advocates for this style contend that this forward presence of armed officers, with the ability to call upon reinforcements from other patrolling officers, can handle most situations. Should there be a larger incident, police departments can call upon Special Response Teams (SRTs) to handle any escalation.

With the number of ships transiting the Persian Gulf, a patrol operation in the vein of a police department appears to be a likely candidate for employment. Iranian use of light mobile forces and not employing their larger units – such as frigates, submarines, or aircraft – means that naval forces, such as destroyers, frigates, and corvettes could handle the patrolling of areas in question, with a larger presence in more contested waters. The SRT back-up would be from air assets based ashore or afloat.

The third concept is the Fire Suppression method. Unlike their police brethren, firefighters do not patrol the streets in their fire trucks looking for flames. Instead, they are in stations, strategically located to respond should a contingency emerge. If the situation is beyond the resources of any one station, mutual aid can be called for assistance while other assets are moved to cover the areas vacated by responding units. The biggest change in fire departments is the proliferation of fire prevention education and fire suppression equipment. Most homes and business have smoke detectors and portable extinguishers or sprinkler systems to extinguish any fire before it can envelop a structure.

This method of patrolling could be adopted for use in convoy operations. Like the police method, naval vessels would assume strategic stations to patrol the waters in question. Due to the large number of ships traversing the area, an operation command headquarters, similar to a 911 dispatch center, can receive information from ships sailing the area to discover any potential targets or threats. As ships sail through the most dangerous and contested waters, they can embark armed teams – such as Marines, Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Teams (FAST), or Armed Guard detachments – to provide close in security until assistance can be provided from naval forces responding from their stations. A few armed personnel on Stena Impero may have prevented the fast-rope of Iranian forces onto the ship.


Variants of these three concepts have all been used in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman area. United States convoy operations late in the 1980s during the Tanker War, and referred to as Operation Ernest Will, were similar to the Secret Service style. During the First Persian Gulf War, coalition navies established a series of checkpoints for ships to check-in at and meet with patrolling warships. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 92nd Infantry Brigade of the Puerto Rico National Guard, was activated and broken up into 13-person teams to embark on American merchant ships transporting materiel to the Middle East.

These recent operations, along with the three methods discussed, are the most likely options available to handle an escort mission in the Middle East. The factors that will determine the course of operation will be the level and frequency of attacks initiated by the Iranians, the amount of resources allocated by the nations undertaking the escort mission, and the willingness of commercial companies to participate in any of these methods. What may eventually develop is the use of all these methods at some point in the future or a hybrid approach to perform this important undertaking.

Salvatore R. Mercogliano is an Associate Professor of History at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina and teaches courses in World Maritime History and Maritime Security. He is also an adjunct professor with the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and offers a graduate level course in Maritime Industry Policy. A former merchant mariner, he sailed and worked ashore for the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command. His book, Fourth Arm of Defense: Sealift and Maritime Logistics in the Vietnam War, is available through the Naval History and Heritage Command. His essay, “Suppose They Gave a War and the Merchant Marine Did Not Come?” won 2nd Prize in the Professional Historian category of the 2019 Chief of Naval Operations Naval History Essay Contest.  Another of his essays “To Be A Modern Maritime Power,” was published in the August 2019 issue of U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings

Featured Image:  Iranian Students’ News Agency, via Reuters)

Securing the Gulf Week Kicks Off on CIMSEC

By Dmitry Filipoff

This week CIMSEC will be featuring articles submitted in response to our Call for Articles on securing the Persian Gulf. According to the Call for Articles:

“A recent spate of attacks in the Persian Gulf is highlighting the fragile security environment within this strategic body of water. The Gulf, filled with commercial ships carrying much of the world’s oil supply, narrowly separates two adversarial factions composed of Arab states and Iran. As economic disturbances stem from the recent attacks, world leaders are debating how to respond, how to shore up deterrence, and how these attacks figure into Iranian strategy.”

Below is a list of articles featuring during the topic week that may be updated as prospective authors finalize additional publications.

Escorting in the Persian Gulf: Firefighting, Policing, or Bodyguarding?” by Salvatore R. Mercogliano, Ph.D.
Why Unmanned Systems Are The Go-To Option for Gray Zone Ops in the Gulf” by Heiko Borchert
Will The Sentinel Program Work? Understanding Iranian Aggression and U.S. Mixed Signals” by Irina Tsukerman
Arab Allies Must Step Up To Defend Freedom of Navigation in the Gulf” by Andrea Daolio

Dmitry Filipoff is CIMSEC’s Director of Online Content. Contact him at Nextwar@cimsec.org

Featured Image: In this Sunday, July 21, 2019 photo, a speedboat of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard trains a weapon toward the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which was seized in the Strait of Hormuz by the Guard, in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. (Morteza Akhoondi/Tasnim News Agency via AP)

The Role of Public Affairs in U.S. Seapower, Pt. 2

By LCDR Arlo Abrahamson, USN

This is a continuation of Part 1, where we introduced the topic, discussed external influences on maritime strategy, and talked about the effects of transparency. Here, in Part 2, we will explore how to synchronize information power to enable maritime strategy, along with several counter-arguments and perspectives.

Synchronizing Information Power to Enable the Maritime Strategy

Another key factor in optimizing public affairs to best support the U.S. maritime strategy is through its synchronization with other aspects of U.S. information power. This is not to assert that synchronization efforts do not exist and are not sporadically effective. While structures are in place to routinely coordinate public affairs actions with both military information operations and public diplomacy, more cross-functional collaboration is imperative in the dynamic information environment where target audiences are increasingly blurred and overlapping.1  

The Joint Concept for Operating in the Information Environment manual affirms the lack of coordination between government information disciplines to achieve a fully holistic harnessing of information power, which involves informing the knowledge, attitudes, and behavior of both friends and foes while minimizing the undue influence from adversaries.2 Many operational staffs already have procedures in place that assign public affairs planners to the information operations working group.3 While these working groups enable greater situational awareness of all information functions, it does not necessarily render more holistic strategic communication efforts.4 There is a necessary doctrinal separation that preserves the credibility of public affairs as a broker of truth while information operations may seek more aggressive influence campaigns.5 However, Duane Opperman points out that a significant portion of information operations is legislated in providing factual information to adversary audiences, which provides a nexus for coordination and de-confliction activities with public affairs.6

Within the maritime security sphere, synchronization efforts are particularly important when examining informational attacks from near-peer nations such as China or Russia on the U.S. maritime strategy. For example, the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda wing, which publishes the Global Times, routinely characterizes U.S. forward naval presence as dangerous and destabilizing for the Indo-Pacific region.7 These stories and narratives by Chinese propagandists make their way into domestic and international press, including U.S. allies and partners, potentially shaping public opinion through specious messaging that can degrade the credibility and perceptions of U.S. naval presence.

As a result, it is essential for military public affairs operations, in pursuit of credible messaging strategies, to collaboratively analyze narratives across the spectrum of U.S. information power to ensure important context and facts are optimized to counter misinformation from strategic competitors and adversaries.8 Kevin Petro, Chief of the Strategic Effects Division on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, notes that commanders can deter and even discredit adversary behavior when credible information and important factual data is messaged holistically.9 For example, in 2017 when a Russian fighter jets flew dangerously close to the destroyer USS Porter while operating in international waters in the Black Sea, the commander and crew presciently documented these unsafe maneuvers and transmitted the imagery to the U.S. European Command, where the imagery was used in diplomatic and media channels to demonstrate Russian aggression and violations of international law.10 As such, the actions of one tactical unit, combined with the synchronization of information by the U.S. government, enabled the misinformation campaigns and misdeeds of an adversary to be countered through multiple prongs of information power and thus maintain the credibility of U.S. forward naval presence.   

Counter Arguments and Alternative Perspectives

There are notable alternative perspectives regarding military applications of the information environment, the balancing of transparency with operational security, and synchronization of U.S. information power. National security leaders are increasingly aware of the impact of misinformation campaigns waged against the U.S. via social media and adversary propaganda, which is compelling some commanders to advocate for more latitude to leverage influence operations.11 Brigadier General Dennis Crall, the former Chief Information Officer of the Marine Corps, advocates for a more pointed response to adversary misinformation campaigns while noting influence campaigns should not be taboo to military information professionals:

“When it comes to influence, simply understanding the cognitive domain isn’t enough – you’ve got to do something about it. The ability to influence our adversaries – and, again, in a way of our time and choosing – is critical.”12

Moreover, Opperman contends that credibility concerns in waging influence operations are relative to a given situation.13 Opperman further posits that public affairs functionality concerns of maintaining credibility by shying away from overt influence activities are over emphasized and argues that members of the press and other external stakeholders should understand that “all operations, including public affairs and communications, are part of an overall military strategy.”14 

Regarding transparency, a notable cadre of security advocates including Henry Irving and Judith Townend argue that during World War Two, strict government control of military information in otherwise open societies enabled operational success in both Britain and the U.S., and contemporary applications may be appropriate today.15 Irving and Townend contend that operational security has waned via adversaries taking advantage of Western systems of openness in government and military institutions.16 Moreover, Tim Hsia argues that competing goals of secrecy to generate surprise versus transparency create natural friction and mistrust of journalists that compels some commanders to seek caution and avoid press engagements.17 Other analysts attribute a perceived trend toward political punditry and eroding journalistic standards caused by the diffusion of media actors in social media and online web forums as the primary cause of mistrust in relationships with the media.18

There are also ranging philosophical debates about the synchronization of public affairs and information operations with some advocates arguing for extremely limited interaction between the disciplines to those who believe that the two fields should be fully integrated. One theory posits that if public affairs professionals participate in counter information campaigns from adversaries, it would give legitimacy to the enemy’s propaganda and delegitimize public affairs information.19 Conversely, Tad Sholtis argues that public affairs and information operations functions should be more than synchronized, but rather integrated operational functions with the combined capability to reach the audiences of allies, partners, and foes alike.20

The synchronization of military public affairs with public diplomacy functions also invokes debate. Steven Stashwick notes that the size of the Department of Defense and the Navy with their vast resources often creates “mission creep” into traditional State Department functions, to include public diplomacy communication.21 He argues that the State Department, which manages holistic and long-term relationships with a given country, should be laying the groundwork for the initial phases of security cooperation engagements contending that “military access and partnerships all require engagement beyond the parameters of the Department of Defense.”22 Noting the U.S. maritime strategy is primarily executed abroad, all of the aforementioned arguments and alternative perspectives must be addressed and reconciled for the strategy to have long-term success.


Admiral John Kirby contends that when the DoD and the Navy fail to communicate consistently, authentically, and with credibility, the U.S. effectively cedes the narrative to its adversaries.23 Moreover, Davis maintains the best way to counter misinformation and disinformation campaigns is to not act in the same coercive and manipulative manner of U.S. adversaries, but to “double down on our values” – values of truth and transparency that strengthen the U.S. position and ultimately allow its strategies to prevail over time.24 

While influence campaigns should not be taboo for information operations, commanders must carefully analyze how any such campaign affects the public domain where their public affairs officers will be operating to ensure long-term credibility and trust are not degraded. This is particularly important in supporting prolonged initiatives such as the U.S. maritime strategy. 

Additionally, operational security and promoting U.S. values of openness and transparency do not have to be a point of conflicting goals. Stavridis notes that commanders can speak comprehensively about the U.S. Navy’s capabilities, strategic presence, and partnerships without giving away tactics, techniques, and procedures: 

“Without in any way revealing secrets, it is possible to engage the global media to showcase U.S. military capabilities. All that helps create real deterrence by giving potential enemies pause. It also encourages allies to stay on our team.”25   

Moreover, while one might argue that reporters are difficult to work with and sometimes do things the military does not like, the same may be said for external relationships of all kinds to include U.S. allies and partners, but commanders still engage with them, as they understand that relationships with allies and partners impact operational success. 

The equation is no different with the relationships with the press. Difficult relationships are not an excuse for transparency to wane.

While there are numerous arguments about how public affairs can synchronize efforts with information operations and public diplomacy channels, the principal function of public affairs as a trusted intermediary between the military and the media is imperative for maintaining a credible voice in press coverage that impacts the success or failure of U.S. naval strategies. In an era where truth is often blurred by adversary misinformation and disinformation campaigns, there is even more precedent for public affairs to function as the primary purveyor of credible information that the Navy’s public stakeholders can trust. Accordingly, the value of thoughtful, factual, and contextual messaging that deters adversaries and helps maintain the support of allies and partners affects the ability for naval forces to effectively operate at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.   As Navy ships in particular are sovereign representations of national power, the public perception of deterrence and confidence in U.S. capabilities impacts even one U.S. ship operating in a forward operating environment. 

Notwithstanding, it is imperative that public affairs professionals cooperate and synchronize factual messaging with information operations and public diplomacy nodes of U.S. information power. And yes, there are times when it is more appropriate for public diplomacy personnel to lead communication on various aspects of military operations as it relates to nation-to-nation relationships. Yet none of this rationale precludes the impact and requirement for a credible intermediary that an optimized military public affairs function can provide for the Navy to pursue its maritime strategy. 

As such, the best way to ensure that public affairs programs can support the maritime strategy is to ensure the Department of Defense and the Navy remain a credible and trusted arbitrator of information, to promote transparency in an authentic and balanced manner with operational security, and to synchronize information yet maintain distinctly separate lines between public affairs and information operations.  This modality for public affairs must be standard across the strategic, operational, and tactical levels to be effective.  It will require commanders, public affairs officers, and operators to understand and align their public affairs programs in a unified and consistent manner.  Communicating consistently and thoughtfully must be a priority and leaders must lean forward and take some of the same calculated risks with public communications as they do in other military operations when opportunities are presented to enhance strategic narratives. In this approach, public affairs can be optimized to effectively support the U.S. maritime strategy and the long-term viability of the U.S. Navy.

Lt Commander Arlo Abrahamson is a recent graduate of the Naval War College and a career Navy public affairs officer. He has served globally supporting strategic communication, security cooperation, and public diplomacy initiatives for the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of State. These views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U. S. Government or the Department of Defense.


1. John Kirby,  “The Information Environment Today,” lecture filmed May 2016 at the Naval War College, Newport R.I., video, 30:58, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYyoRo5_Alw

2. Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Concept for Operations in the Information Environment, (Washington, DC: GPO, July 25, 2018), 1-4.

3. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3-13, Information Operations, (Washington DC: GPO, November 2012).

4. Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Concept for Operations in the Information Environment, (Washington, DC: GPO, July 25, 2018), 1-4.

5. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3-61, Public Affairs, (Washington DC: GPO, November 17, 2015),1-14.

6. Duane Opperman, “Information and Public Affairs: A Union of Influence,” U.S. Army War College Strategy Research Project Paper, (March 22, 2012): 7, https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a561834.pdf.

7. Junshe Zhang,  “U.S. Meddling Disrupts Peace in South China Sea,” Global Times, July 25, 2017, http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1057993.shtml.

8. Duane Opperman, “Information and Public Affairs: A Union of Influence,” U.S. Army War College Strategy Research Project Paper, (March 22, 2012): 5.

9. Kevin Petro, Colonel, U.S. Army, Joint Staff, email correspondence with author, April 17.

10. Ivan Watson, Sebastian Skukla, “Russian Planes Buzz U.S. Warship in Black Sea,” CNN, Feb 16, 2017, https://www.cnn.com/2017/02/16/us/russia-us-ship-fly-by/index.html.

11. John Kirby, Rear Admiral (ret), email correspondence with the author, April 16, 2019.

12. Gidget Fuentes, “Marine CIO: Don’t Fear Deception in the Information Warfare Mission,” USNI, Feb 27, 2107, https://news.usni.org/2017/02/27/marines-cio-dont-fear-deception-information-warfare-mission.

13. Duane Opperman, “Information and Public Affairs: A Union of Influence,” U.S. Army War College Strategy Research Project Paper, (March 22, 2012): 9 https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a561834.pdf.

14. Ibid, 6.

15. Henry Irving, Judith Townend, “Censorship and National Security:  Information Control Second World War and Present Day,” History and Policy.Org, February 10, 2016, 1-4, http://www.historyandpolicy.org/policy-papers/papers/censorship-and-national-security-information-control.

16. Ibid.

17. Tim Hsia, “The Uneasy Media/Military Relationship,” New York Times At War Blog, June 15, 2011, https://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/15/the-uneasy-media-military-relationship/.

18. Margaret Sullivan, “More Facts, Fewer Pundits: Here’s how the Media can Regain the Public’s Trust,” Washington Post, Jan 17, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/more-facts-fewer-pundits-heres-how-the-media-can-regain-the-publics-trust/2017/01/29/9c0232ba-e4a7-11e6-a453-19ec4b3d09ba_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1d0ec7dc854e.

19. “Information Operations and Public Affairs,” Small Wars Journal, Aug 2012, https://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/public-affairs-and-information-operations

20. Tad Sholtis, “Public Affairs and Information Operations, a Strategy for Success,” Air and Space Journal, (Fall 2005):10-14.

21. Steven Stashwick, “The Militarization of Foreign Policy: The Military Mission drives Foreign Engagement,” EastWest Center Forum, Jan 31, 2017, https://www.eastwest.ngo/idea/militarization-foreign-policy-military-mission-drives-foreign-engagement-part-i.

22. Ibid.

23. John Kirby, Rear Admiral (ret), email correspondence with author, April 15, 2019.

24. Jeff Davis, “Retirement Remarks – The Future of Public Affairs,” Linked In, Oct 2019, https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeff-davis-07624a76/.

25. James Stavridis, “It’s been over 300 days since a Pentagon Press Briefing: That should concern all Americans including the Military,” Time Magazine, April 16, 2019, http://time.com/5571643/pentagon-press-briefings/.

Featured Image: NORFOLK, Va. (June 13, 2019)–Capt. David Murrin (left), UNSN Comfort’s ship’s master, Capt. B. J. Diebold (center), USNS Comfort’s mission commander and Capt. Kevin Buckley, USNS Comfort’s medical treatment facility commanding officer address members of the media during a press conference, at Naval Station Norfolk, prior to the hospital ship’s deployment to South America, Central America and the Caribbean, June 13.(U.S. Navy photo by Shevonne Cleveland/released)

Fostering the Discussion on Securing the Seas.