Trylon Communications  - June 2005

Front Line PR

Ask a 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.

The U.S. 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 story).

These teams 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.

This 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.

JPSE plans 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."

The JPSE 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.