business executive to name the first line of defense for
their organization, and many times the answer will be
communications and public relations. As the conflict in
Iraq continues, communication is becoming increasingly
important on the battlefield as well.
Special Operations Command has been dispatching two-to
four-person teams of psychological experts to the
Pentagon's overseas commands, armed with plans for pro-U.S.
public relations campaigns to counter propaganda from
enemies. So far, the U.S. has continuously received the
short end of the PR stick in the Middle East (see
are part of a new unit called the Joint Psyops Support
Element (JPSE), nicknamed "gypsy”. The goal is to win
over public opinion – a tough job to say the least. The
teams are to produce commercial-quality television ads,
radio spots, websites and printed material to burnish
the U.S.'s image in these regions.
certainly isn’t a new idea – until a few years ago the
Pentagon’s Office of Strategic Influence had the job,
but it was shut down. At that time there were reports
that the group planned to plant false news stories to
sway opinion – reports that later turned out to be
unfounded but achieved their purpose nonetheless.
to award contracts to U.S. multimedia companies to
develop prototype ad campaigns. Says JPSE director Jim
Treadwell, a former Army psyops colonel: "I want to be
as creative as possible."
unit has 38 psychological-operations experts (plus a
graphic artist and videographer for film editing), and
it is expected to grow to 113 by 2006, with a projected
budget of $77.5 million over the next seven years.