Tag Archives: Information Operations

Navy Information Warfare — What is it?

By Richard Mosier

Defining a warfare area’s mission and function is the foundation for all activities required to conduct mission area analysis to determine requirements, develop doctrine and tactics, and structure, train, and equip the fleet to accomplish the mission.

Within the U.S. Navy, the terms Information Warfare (IW), Information Operations (IO), and Information Operations Warfare are widely used but not well defined. Nor are they linked to provide coherent definitions from joint and service perspectives that are essential to successful communication regarding IW’s relationship to other warfare areas and supporting activities. The result is confusion and a lack of progress in structuring, training, and equipping the U.S. Navy to perform this emerging predominant warfare area.

The following are examples of how these terms mean different things to different groups:

Reference: Station Hypo, 14 Jul 16, “CWOBC, a Community’s Course“: “The Cryptologic Warfare Officer Basic Course (CWOBC) formerly known as the Information Warfare Basic Course (IWBC) is an entry level course for all officers, regardless of commission source, who are coming into the Cryptologic Warfare Officer (CWO) community. Six weeks in length with an average annual throughput of 154, the course focuses on Signal Intelligence (SIGINT), Electronic Warfare (EW), Cyber Operations, as well as security fundamentals and community history.” Inasmuch as the content of the basic course remained the same, the terms “Information Warfare” and “Cryptologic Warfare” appear to mean the same thing for this group.  

150828-N-PU674-005 PENSACOLA, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2015) Officers attending the Information Professional Basic Course at Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station listen to Rear Adm. Daniel J. MacDonnell, commander of Information Dominance Corps Reserve Command (IDCRC) and Reserve deputy commander of Navy Information Dominance Forces (NAVIDFOR). Macdonnell spoke with them about career opportunities in the Information Dominance Corps and active and reserve integration. (U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy/Released)
PENSACOLA, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2015) Officers attending the Information Professional Basic Course at Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station listen to Rear Adm. Daniel J. MacDonnell, commander of Information Dominance Corps Reserve Command (IDCRC) and Reserve deputy commander of Navy Information Dominance Forces (NAVIDFOR). Macdonnell spoke with them about career opportunities in the Information Dominance Corps and active and reserve integration. (U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy/Released)

Reference the BUPERS Information Warfare Community Management web page. It only addresses Information Professionals (1820), Cryptologic Warfare Specialists (1810), Cyber Warfare Engineers (1840), Intelligence Officers (1830), and Oceanography Specialists (1800), implying that together this aggregation of legacy support specialties constitutes Information Warfare. All of these are restricted line designators that by definition exercise command only over organizations that perform these specialties. There are no unrestricted line designators for specializing in and exercising Information Operations Warfare Commander (IWC) functions described in Naval Warfare Publication NWP 3-56 below.

Reference: NAVADMIN 023/16, DTG 021815 Feb 16, Subject: Information Dominance Corps Re-designated Information Warfare Community. The message states Information Warfare’s mission is: “providing sufficient overmatch in command and control, understanding the battlespace and adversaries, and projecting power through and across all domains.” This description of the Information Warfare mission is substantially different from the definition of Information Operations defined by Secretary of Defense, adopted by the JCS, and reflected in Naval Warfare Publications.

The Secretary of Defense defines Information Operations in DOD Directive 3600.1, dated May 2, 2013, as: “The integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.” This definition was incorporated in Joint Pub 1-02 and Naval Warfare Publications.

Naval Warfare Publication (NWP) 3-13 Information Operations, Feb 2014, defines Information Operations as: “the integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.” Paragraph 1-3 states: “Evolving joint and Navy doctrine has refined IO as a discrete warfare area, not just a supporting function or enabling capability, and the IE [information environment] as a valuable and contested part of the battlespace.”

160123-N-PU674-018 PENSACOLA, Fla. (Jan. 23, 2016) Information warfare Sailors from the Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station mentor high school students during CyberThon, an event designed to develop the future cybersecurity workforce. Hosted by the Blue Angels Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, CyberThon challenged the students to play the role of newly hired information technology professionals tasked with defending their company's network. (U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy/Released)
PENSACOLA, Fla. (Jan. 23, 2016) Information warfare Sailors from the Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station mentor high school students during CyberThon, an event designed to develop the future cybersecurity workforce. Hosted by the Blue Angels Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, CyberThon challenged the students to play the role of newly hired information technology professionals tasked with defending their company’s network. (U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy/Released)

Naval Warfare Publication (NWP) 3-56, subject: Composite Warfare Commander, Feb 2010, Paragraph 3.7 identifies twenty-three typical functions assigned to the “Information Operations Warfare Commander (IWC)” that are summarized below:

  • Planning IO, EW, Military Deception, Operations Security, PSYOP, and Spectrum Usage.  
  • Developing, coordinating, and practicing preplanned responses for counter-surveillance, counter-influence, and counter-targeting in response to changes in the tactical situation.        
  • Recommending the EMCON profile and coordinating with ASWC to manage acoustic emissions in response to changes in the tactical situation.
  • Controlling ES and EA assets, and coordinating employment of ES and cryptologic sensors.
  • Conducting computer Network Defense (CND) and COMSEC monitoring.
  • Paragraph 4.3.4 states; “The IWC establishes and maintains the tactical picture….” It also states: [T]he IWC ….. achieves and maintains information superiority….and supports other warfare commanders.”

The term Information Operations is officially defined and documented. The term Information Warfare, though used extensively within the Navy, is not clearly defined, nor is it linked to Information Operations, resulting in confusion and limited progress.

VADM Jan Tighe assumed duties as OPNAV N2/N6 and Director of Naval Intelligence in July 2016. Image credit: US Navy
VADM Jan Tighe assumed duties as OPNAV N2/N6 and Director of Naval Intelligence in July 2016. (U.S. Navy photo)

For example, within the OPNAV Staff the N-2/N-6 carries the title Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare. He/she leads the “Navy Information Warfare Community” which so far is composed only of the legacy support specialties of Intelligence, Cryptology, METOC and IT. To date, there is little to suggest that the OPNAV N-2/N-6 has assumed responsibility for mission analysis, requirements definitions, and structuring, training, and equipping the fleet to achieve superiority over an adversary through Information Operations. Moreover, there is little suggesting recognition that Information Operations Warfare Commander (IWC) functions require performance in a command capacity (IWC), specialized training, and substantial systems functionality that has to be integrated with, rather than separate from, the combat systems that support other warfare areas.

CNO NAVADMIN 083/12, DTG 121702ZMAR12, Subject: OPNAV Realignment, lays out that the DCNO for Warfare Systems (N9) “is responsible for the integration of manpower, training, sustainment, modernization, and procurement readiness of the Navy’s warfare systems.” The N9 supplies leadership, guidance, and direction to the directors of Expeditionary Warfare (N95), Surface Warfare (N96), Undersea Warfare (N97), and Air Warfare (N98). The organization also oversees requirements and resource allocation across these warfare areas. Information Operations is not mentioned. From all indications, the N9 is not responsible for integrating IW/IO combat system functionality with the combat systems that support planning and execution in the traditional warfare areas. Given the functions of the IWC summarized above, combat systems integration is essential for mission success. This suggests the need for a well defined relationship between the N-9 and the N-2/N-6.

In order to eliminate confusion and realize the potential contribution of Information Operations to naval warfare, the U.S. Navy needs to formally (1) define the IW mission, (2) specify IW functions to be accomplished by personnel, organizations, and systems, and (3) assign IW organizational responsibilities. The following are proposed definitions.


Per JP 1-02, Information Operations is “the integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.”  

This definition, focused on “operations” or “employment” would be retained.  However, it does not satisfy the JP 1-02 criteria of “mission”: “The task, together with the purpose, that clearly indicates the action to be taken and the reason therefore.”  The mission statement should be focused not on employment, but on the warfare task, purpose, action to be taken and the reason therefore. This translates to the need for the term “Information Warfare.” The following is offered as a statement of the mission of Naval Information Warfare:

That portion of naval warfare in which operations are conducted to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the enemy’s human and automated decision making to gain warfighting advantages over the adversary, while protecting our own.


JP 1-02 defines “Function” as: “The broad, general, and enduring role for which an organization is designed, equipped, and trained.” The following is offered as a statement of the functions of Navy Information Warfare:

Naval Information Warfare functions are to achieve superior situation awareness and combat command decisions; influence enemy decisions; deny the enemy information superiority; disrupt enemy decision making; and  protect and defend own force information and information systems from external or internal threats.


JP1-02 defines “Task” as: A clearly defined action or activity specifically assigned to an individual or organization that must be done as it is imposed by an appropriate authority. A discrete event or action that enables a mission or function to be accomplished.”

IW tasks are those tasks considered essential for the accomplishment of assigned or anticipated missions. After defining IW mission and functions, mission area analysis can proceed to identify mission essential tasks, and define required operational capabilities derived therefrom.

In summary, IW is a predominant warfare area that has the unrealized potential to be a major factor in prevailing in naval warfare with a near-peer adversary through the employment of Information Operations. A clear definition of IW missions, functions, and assignment of responsibilities for requirements, resource sponsorship, acquisition, and combat systems integration would serve to place this warfare area on a firm footing and serve a foundation for the realization of its significant potential contribution to combat success.  

Richard Mosier is a former naval aviator, intelligence analyst at ONI, OSD/DIA SES 4, and systems engineer specializing in Information Warfare. The views express herein are solely those of the author.

Featured Image: PENSACOLA, Fla. (Feb. 3, 2011) The Center for Information Dominance (CID) has become the first non-operational shore command approved for the newly created Enlisted Information Dominance Warfare Specialty pin. (U.S. Navy photo by Gary Nichols/Released)

The Strategic Support Force: China’s Information Warfare Service

This piece was originally published by the Jamestown Foundation. It is republished here with permission. Read it in its original form here.

By John Costello

Gao Jin (高津) is the PLASSF’s Commander. Note that he was promoted to major general in June 2006 and to lieutenant general occurred in July 2013. (Xinhua)

On December 31, 2015, Xi Jinping introduced the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF; 火箭军), Strategic Support Force (PLASSF; 战略支援部队), and Army Leadership Organ. The move came just within the Central Military Commission’s deadline to complete the bulk of reforms by the end of the year. Most media coverage has focused on the Rocket Force, whose reorganization amounts to a promotion of the PLA Second Artillery Force (PLASAF) to the status of a service on the same level of the PLA Army, Navy, and Air Force. However, by far the most interesting and unexpected development was the creation of the SSF.

According to official sources, the Strategic Support Force will form the core of China’s information warfare force, which is central to China’s “active defense” strategic concept. This is an evolution, not a departure from, China’s evolving military strategy. It is a culmination of years of technological advancement and institutional change. In the context of ongoing reforms, the creation of the SSF may be one of the most important changes yet. Consolidating and restructuring China’s information forces is a key measure to enable a number of other state goals of reform, including reducing the power of the army, implementing joint operations, and increasing emphasis on high-tech forces.

The Strategic Support Force in Chinese Media

Top Chinese leadership, including President Xi Jinping and Ministry of Defense spokesman Yang Yujun have not provided significant details about the operational characteristics of the SSF. Xi has described the SSF as a “new-type combat force to maintain national security and an important growth point of the PLA’s combat capabilities” (MOD, January 1).

On January 14, the SSF’s newly-appointed commander, Gao Jin (高津) said that the SSF will raise an information umbrella(信息伞) for the military and will act as an important factor in integrating military services and systems, noting that it will provide the entire military with accurate, effective, and reliable information support and strategic support assurance (准确高效可靠的信息支撑和战略支援保障) (CSSN, January 14). [1]

Senior Chinese military experts have been quick to comment on the SSF, and their interviews form some of the best and most authoritative insights into the role the new force will play in the Chinese military. For instance, on January 16th, the Global Times quoted Song Zhongping (宋忠平), a former PLASAF officer and a professor at the PLARF’s Equipment Research Academy, who described SSF as as a “fifth service” and, contrary to official reports, states it is not a “military branch” (兵种) but rather should be seen as an independent military service (军种) in its own right. [2] He continues by stating that it will be composed of three separate forces or force-types: space troops (天军), cyber troops (网军), and electronic warfare forces (电子战部队). The cyber force would be composed of “hackers focusing on attack and defense,” the space forces would “focus on reconnaissance and navigation satellites,” and the electronic warfare force would focus on “jamming and disrupting enemy radar and communications.” According to Song, this would allow the PLA to “meet the challenges of not only traditional warfare but also of new warfare centered on new technology” (Global Times, January 16).

By far the most authoritative description of the Strategic Support Force comes from People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo (尹卓). As a member of both the PLAN Expert Advisory Committee for Cybersecurity and Informatization (海军网络安全和信息化专家委员会) and the All-Military Cybersecurity and Informatization Expert Advisory Committee (全军网络安全和信息化专家委员会, MCIEAC) formed in May 2015, Yin is in the exact sort of position to have first-hand knowledge of the SSF, if not a direct role in its creation.

In an interview published by official media on January 5th, 2016, Yin stated that its main mission will be to enable battlefield operations by ensuring the military can “maintain local advantages in the aerospace, space, cyber, and electromagnetic battlefields.” Specifically, the SSF’s missions will include target tracking and reconnaissance, daily operation of satellite navigation, operating Beidou satellites, managing space-based reconnaissance assets, and attack and defense in the cyber and electromagnetic spaces” and will be “deciding factors in [the PLA’s] ability to attain victory in future wars” (China Military News, January 5).

Yin also foresees the SSF playing a greater role in protecting and defending civilian infrastructure than the PLA has in the past:

“[The SSF] will play an important role in China’s socialist construction. Additionally, China is facing a lot of hackers on the internet which are engaging in illegal activities, for example, conducting cyber attacks against government facilities, military facilities, and major civilian facilities. This requires that we protect them with appropriate defense. The SSF will play an important role in protecting the country’s financial security and the security of people’s daily lives” (China Military News, January 5).

Yang Yujun, MND spokesman, also suggested that civilian-military integration will form a portion of the SSF’s mission, but stopped short of clarifying whether this meant the force will have a heavy civilian component or will be involved in defending civilian infrastructure, or both (CNTV, January 2).

Yin noted that the SSF will embody the PLA’s vision of real joint operations. In Yin’s view, military operations cannot be divorced from “electronic space,” a conceptual fusion of the electromagnetic and cyber domains. The SSF will integrate “reconnaissance, early warning, communications, command, control, navigation, digitalized ocean, digitalized land, etc. and will provide strong support for joint operations for each military service branch.” Indeed, this view was also echoed by Shao Yongling (邵永灵), a PLARF Senior Colonel who is currently a professor at the PLA’s Command College in Wuhan. She suggested that the SSF was created to centralize each branch of the PLA’s combat support units, where previously each service had their own, resulting in “overlapping functions and repeat investment.” Consolidating these responsibilities in a central force would allow the military to “reduce redundancies, better integrate, and improve joint operational capabilities” (China Military News, January 5).

Taken together, these sources suggest that at its most basic, the SSF will comprise forces in the space, cyber, and electromagnetic domains. Specifically, sources indicate the SSF will most likely be responsible for all aspects of information in warfare, including intelligence, technical reconnaissance, cyber attack/defense, electronic warfare, and aspects of information technology and management.

Force Composition

Rear Admiral Yin’s comments in particular suggest that at a minimum the SSF will draw from forces previously under the General Staff Department’s (GSD) subordinate organs, to include portions of the First Department (1PLA, operations department), Second Department (2PLA, intelligence department), Third Department (3PLA, technical reconnaissance department), Fourth Department (4PLA, electronic countermeasure and radar department), and Informatization Department (communications).

The “Joint Staff Headquarters Department” (JSD) under the Central Military Commission will likely incorporate the 1PLA’s command and control, recruitment, planning, and administrative bureaus. Information support organs like the meteorology and hydrology bureau, survey and mapping bureau, and targeting bureau would move to the SSF.

The GSD’s intelligence department, the 2PLA will likely move to the SSF, although there is some question as to whether it will maintain all aspects of its clandestine intelligence mission, or this will be moved to a separate unit. The Aerospace Reconnaissance Bureau (ARB), responsible for the GSD’s overhead intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission will most likely form the center of the SSF’s space corps. The 2PLA’s second bureau, responsible for tactical reconnaissance, will also move to the SSF. This will include one of its primary missions: operating China’s long-range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).[3]

The SSF will unify China’s cyber mission by reducing the institutional barriers separating computer network attack, espionage, and defense, which have been “stove-piped” and developed as three separate disciplines within the PLA. The 3PLA’s technical reconnaissance and cyber espionage units will likely move, including the national network of infamous technical reconnaissance bureau’s (TRB), the most famous of which is Unit 61398. The 4PLA’s electronic countermeasures mission will likely form the core of a future electronic warfare force under the SSF, and the its secondary mission of computer network attack (CNA) will also likely also move under the SSF.

Finally, the entirety of the Informatization Department will likely move to the SSF. This will unify its mission, which has expanding over the years to include near all aspects of the support side of informatization, including communications, information management, network administration, computer network defense (CND), and satellite downlink.

Drawing the bulk of the SSF from former GSD organs and subordinate units is not only remarkably practical, but it is also mutually reinforcing with other reforms. Firstly, it reduces the power and influence of the Army by removing its most strategic capabilities. Previously the PLA Army was split into two echelons, its GSD-level headquarters departments (部门) and units (部队) and Military Region-level (MR; 军区) operational units. GSD units did not serve in combat or traditional operational roles, yet constituted some of China’s most advanced “new-type” capabilities: information management, space forces, cyber espionage, cyber-attack, advanced electronic warfare, and intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance. The creation of the Army Leadership Organ effectively split the Army along these lines, with lower-echelon forces forming the PLA Ground Forces and the higher-echelon units forming the Strategic Support Force.

Secondly, separating these capabilities into a separate SSF allows the PLA Army to concentrate on land defense and combat. Nearly all personnel staffing the supposedly joint-force GSD units were Army personnel and by-and-large these units were considered Army units, despite serving as the de facto joint strategic support units for the entire PLA military. Giving the SSF its own administrative organs and personnel allows the PLA Army to concentrate solely on the business of ground combat, land defense, and fulfilling its intended roles in the context of China’s national defense strategy.

Finally and most importantly, separating the second, third, fourth, and “fifth” departments—as the Informatization Department is sometimes called—into their own service branch allows them to be leveraged to a greater degree for Navy Air Force, and Rocket Force missions. More than anything, it allows them to focus on force-building and integrating these capabilities across each service-branch, thereby enabling a long-sought “joint-force” capable of winning wars.

In many ways, taking GSD-level departments, bureaus, and units and centralizing them into the Strategic Support Force is making official what has long been a reality. GSD-level components have nearly always operated independently from regional Group Army units. Separating them into a separate service is less of an institutional change and more of an administrative paper-shuffle.

Integrated Information Warfare

The Strategic Support Force will form the core of China’s information warfare force, which is central to China’s strategy of pre-emptive attack and asymmetric warfare. China’s new military reforms seek to synthesize military preparations into a “combined wartime and peacetime military footing.” These “strategic presets” seek to put China’s military into an advantageous position at the outset of war in order to launch a preemptive attack or quickly respond to aggression. [4] This allows China to offset its disadvantages in technology and equipment through preparation and planning, particularly against a high-tech opponent—generally a by-word for the United States in PLA strategic literature.

These presets require careful selection of targets so that a first salvo of hard-kill and soft-kill measures can completely cripple an enemy’s operational “system of systems,” or his ability to use information technology to conduct operations. Achieving this information dominance is necessary to achieve air and sea dominance, or the “three dominances.” [5] A PLA Textbook, The Science of Military Strategy, (SMS) specifically cites space, cyber, and electronic warfare means working together as strategic weapons to achieve these ends, to “paralyze enemy operational system of systems” and “sabotage enemy’s war command system of systems.” [6] This includes launching space and cyber-attacks against political, economic, and civilian targets as a deterrent. The Strategic Support Force will undoubtedly play a central role as the information warfare component of China’s warfare strategy, and will be the “tip of the spear” in its war-plans and strategic disposition.

Remaining Questions

Despite what can be culled and answered from official sources and expert commentary, significant questions remain regarding the structure of Strategic Support Force and the roles it will play. For one, it is unclear how the Strategic Support Force will incorporate civilian elements into its ranks. Mentioned in 2015’s DWP and the more recent reform guidelines, civilian-military integration is a priority, but Chinese official sources have stopped short in describing how these forces will be incorporated into military in the new order (MOD, May 26, 2015). Previously, the General Staff Department research institutes, known as the “GSD RI’s,” acted as epicenters of civilian technical talent for strategic military capabilities. If the Strategic Support Force is primarily composed of former GSD units, then these research institutes will be ready-made fusion-points for civilian-military integration, and may take on a greater role in both operations and acquisition. Even so, the civilian piece is likely to prove vital, as they will undoubtedly serve as the backbone of China’s cyber capability.

Secondly, it is unknown specifically what forces will compose the Strategic Support Force, or the full extent of its mission. When official sources say “new-type” forces, they could mean a wide range of different things, and the term can include special warfare, intelligence operations, cyber warfare, or space. At a minimum, a consensus has emerged that the force will incorporate space, cyber, and electronic warfare, but the full extent of what this means is unclear. It is also unknown, for instance, if the space mission will include space launch facilities, or whether those will remain under the CMC Equipment Development Department, a rechristened General Armament Department. Where psychological operations will fall in the new order is also up for debate. Some sources have said that it will be incorporated into the SSF while others have left it out entirely.

Finally, although it is clear that the SSF will act as a service, it remains unclear if the CMC will also treat it as an operational entity, or how the CMC will operationalize forces that are under its administrative purview. It is unlikely that the military theaters will have operational authority over strategic-level cyber units, electronic warfare units, or space assets. These capabilities will likely be commanded directly by the CMC. This logic flies in the face of the new system, which requires that services focus on force construction rather than operations and warfare. The solution may be that the SSF, as well as the PLARF, act as both services and “functional” commands for their respective missions.


Ultimately, the strategic support force needs to be understood in the broader context of the reforms responsible for its creation. On one hand, the reforms are practical, intending to usher China’s military forces into the modern era and transform them into a force capable of waging and winning “informatized local wars.” On the other hand, the reforms are politically motivated, intending to reassert party leadership to transform the PLA into a more reliable, effective political instrument.

The Strategic Support Force, if administered correctly, will help solve many of the PLA’s problems that have prevented it from effectively implementing joint operations and information warfare. The creation of an entire military service dedicated to information warfare reaffirms China’s focus on the importance of information in its strategic concepts, but it also reveals the Central Military Commission’s desire to assert more control over these forces as political instruments. With the CMC solidly at the helm, information warfare will likely be leveraged more strategically and will be seen in all aspects of PLA operations both in peace and in war. China is committing itself completely to information warfare, foreign nations should take note and act accordingly.

John Costello is Congressional Innovation Fellow for New American Foundation and a former Research Analyst at Defense Group Inc. He was a member of the U.S. Navy and a DOD Analyst. He specializes in information warfare, electronic warfare and non-kinetic counter-space issues.


1. A Chinese-media report on Gao Jin’s military service assignments can be found at <http://news.sina.com.cn/c/sz/2016-01-01/doc-ifxneept3519173.shtml>. Gao Jin’s role as commander of the SSF is noteworthy in two respects: One, he is a career Second Artillery officer, so his new role muddies the waters a bit in understanding whether the SSF will be a force composed of Army personnel but treated administratively separate from the Army—not unlike the former PLASAF-PLA Army relationship—or will be composed of personnel from various services and treated administratively separate from all forces. Secondly and more important to this discussion, before his new post as SSF commander, Gao Jin was head of the highly-influential Academy of Military Sciences (AMS) which besides being the PLA’s de facto think-tank (along with the National Defense University), is responsible for putting out the Science of Strategy, a wide-reaching consensus document that both captures and guides PLA strategic thinking at the national level. The most recent edition published in 2013 was released under his tenure as commandant of AMS and many of the ideas from that edition have found their way into the 2015 defense white paper, December’s guide on military reforms, and many of the changes made to China’s national defense establishment. His new role could be seen as CMC-endorsement of SMS’s views on China’s strategic thought.

2. Song’s description of the SSF contradicts official-media descriptions of the service, which had suggested that the service will occupy a similar echelon to that of the PLASAF before it was promoted to full military service status equal to the other branches.

3. Ian M. Easton and L.C. Russell Hsiao, “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Project: Organizational Capacities and Operational Capabilities,” 2049 Institute, March 11, 2013. p. 14.

4. The Science of Military Strategy [战略学], 3rd ed., Beijing: Military Science Press, 2013. p. 320.

5. Ibid. p. 165.

6. Ibid. p. 164.

Featured Image: Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division prepare to provide Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen with a demonstration of their capablities during a visit to the unit in China on July 12, 2011. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

Developing an Assessment for the IO Environment in Afghanistan

You may be wondering what an article about Afghanistan is doing on a site about maritime security. Well, I found myself asking a very similar questions when, within six months of joining the U.S. Navy and graduating from Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Pensacola, FL, I found myself in a land-locked country serving on a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) conducting counterinsurgency operations. The irony was not lost on me since I had joined very late in life (I was 35 when I went to OCS). The recruiter had said, “Join the Navy and see the world!” Little did I know we’d be starting in alphabetical order …

Meeting the requirements of an “individual augmentee” – (Fog a mirror? Check!) – and having just enough training to know how to spell “IO,” I arrived in Khost province in early 2008. I was fortunate to relieve a brilliant officer, Chris Weis, who had established a successful media and public diplomacy program and laid the groundwork for a number of future programs.

I decided that before setting out to win the “hearts and minds” of the local population, we needed to take stock of where we were and whether our efforts were achieving the effects we desired.

The goal of Information Operations (or “IO”) is to “influence, corrupt, disrupt, or usurp adversarial human and automated decision making while protecting our own.”[i] But how does one know whether the decision process, either human or automated, has actually been influenced in some way? We can assume or surmise that, based on the actions of the target of the IO campaign, some desired effect was achieved or not achieved. But how much of that was based on our IO campaign and how much on other factors, perhaps unknown even to us? We can also attempt to ask the target after the fact whether campaign activities influenced their decision making. But such opportunities might rarely arise in the midst of on-going operations. 

Commanders conducting counterinsurgency operations should have two primary IO targets: the insurgents and the local population. Retired U.S. Army officer John Nagl notes that “persuading the masses of people that the government is capable of providing essential services—and defeating the insurgents—is just as important” as enticing the insurgents to surrender and provide information on their comrades.[ii] A PRT is not charged with directly targeting insurgents. Instead, its mission is to build the capacity of the host government to provide governance, development, and these “essential services” for the local population.[iii]

Information Operations traditionally suffer from a lack of available metrics by which planners can assess their environment and measure the effectiveness of their programs. It may be impossible to show direct causation, or even correlation, between Information Operations and actual effects (i.e., did my influence program actually have its desired effect?). This often places IO practitioners at a distinct disadvantage when attempting to gain the confidence of unit commanders, who are tasked with allocating scarce battlefield resources and who are often skeptical of Information Operations as a whole.

Given these constraints it was clear that the PRT in Khost province, Afghanistan, needed a tool by which the leadership could benchmark current conditions and evaluate the information environment under which the population lived. We hoped that such a tool could help provide clues as to whether our IO (and the overall PRT) efforts were having the intended effects. As a result, we developed the Information Operations Environmental Assessment tool, which can be used and replicated at the unit level (battalion or less) by planners in order to establish an initial benchmark (where am I?) and measure progress toward achieving the IO program goals and objectives (where do I want to go?). 

Since my crude attempt was first published in 2009, the U.S. Institute of Peace (yes, there is such a thing) developed the metrics framework under the name “Measuring Progress in Conflict Environments” or “MPICE.” This project seeks to:

provide a comprehensive capability for measuring progress during stabilization and reconstruction operations for subsequent integrated interagency and intergovernmental use. MPICE enables policymakers to establish a baseline before intervention and track progress toward stability and, ultimately, self-sustaining peace. The intention is to contribute to establishing realistic goals, focusing government efforts strategically, integrating interagency activities, and enhancing the prospects for attaining an enduring peace. This metrics framework supports strategic and operational planning cycles.

No doubt the MPICE framework is far more useful today than my rudimentary attempt to capture measures of effect in 2008, but I hope in some small way others have found a useful starting point. As I learned firsthand, and as practitioners of naval and maritime professions know, what happens on land often draws in those focused on the sea. 

The author would like to thank Dr. Thomas H. Johnson and Barry Scott Zellen, both of the Naval Postgraduate School, for their professional mentorship and constructive advice, and for including my work in their book.

LT Robert “Jake” Bebber is an information warfare officer assigned to the staff of Commander, U.S. Cyber Command. He holds a Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Central Florida and lives with his wife, Dana and son, Vincent in Millersville, Maryland. The views expressed here are not those of the Department of Defense, the Navy or those of U.S. Cyber Command. He welcomes your comments at jbebber@gmail.com.


[i] Joint Publication 3-13 Information Operations, p. ix

[ii] Nagl, John A. Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002, p. 93.

[iii] Ibid.