Leaders from the Information Professionals Association, government, and industry participated in a panel discussion May 5 hosted by Alamo AFCEA on “Information Dominance: Why the US must evolve to compete and win in a challenged Information Environment.” Panelists agreed that today’s Information Warfare is not about finding tools to develop and deploy; it is about the people.
“The real IO/IW capability are well trained and experienced professionals who understand the power of the intersection of these capabilities,” said Austin Branch, co-founder of IPA and Executive Director of Information Strategy and Programs at COLSA Corporation. “The real power – the sweet spot – to achieve a competitive edge, and possibly dominance in the [Information Environment] is the ability to wield or project the intersection of tech and soft science for designed outcomes in digital and cognitive spaces.”
Dr. Paul Lieber, IPA’s chief scientist, mass communication scholar, and former Joint Special Operations University faculty member, stressed that Information Warfare (IW) requires an integrated approach between psychological operations, cyber, intelligence, ISR, and electronic warfare. Turning to current events, Dr. Lieber addressed the dramatic impacts of China and Russia’s disinformation campaigns, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. needs to learn from this case study in manipulation and quickly shift its IW efforts to understand dis- and mis-information and fuse the various methods of IW, he said.
Panelists discussed efforts at DARPA, elsewhere in government, and in industry to become more sophisticated about operating in and understanding online platforms and propaganda. Dr. Brian Pierce, former Director of the DARPA Information Innovation Office (I2O), described DARPA programs to strengthen the cognitive ability to counter malicious influence and disinformation and leverage technologies like automated detection and bots to enhance our cognitive resilience against the onslaught of misinformation.
The dialogue illuminated the need for the U.S. to catch up to our adversaries, and to develop the skills to recognize malicious activities and counter them in cyberspace and private spaces. The disinformation campaign executed by China around COVID-19 is a warning of the increasing complexity of the information environment, and it will take a persistent, enduring cross-agency, cross-disciplinary effort to win the information war.
“This is an inflection point. Cyber, EW, PSYOP, and operational planners all must be information professions,” Branch said.
To watch the full recording of the event, click here.