Publicly Released: February 27, 2020
The objective of this evaluation was to determine whether the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR):
• planned and executed military information support operations (MISO) in accordance with joint doctrine, and
• coordinated its OIR messaging efforts and planned the transition of its messaging responsibilities with allies, the host nation, and the U.S. Department of State (DOS).
According to U.S. joint doctrine, MISO develops and conveys messages and actions to influence select foreign groups and to promote themes to change those groups' attitudes and behaviors. U.S. joint doctrine also states that MISO influences foreign attitudes about U.S. diplomatic, informational, military, and economic power and resolve. DoD and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instructions require the DoD and military services to coordinate and de-conflict MISO with other U.S. Government departments and agencies, such as the Department of State, to ensure consistency across U.S. Government influence operations.
In 2014, the Joint Staff directed U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) to provide a Military Information Support Team at the U.S. Embassy Baghdad to advise and assist the Iraqi Ministry of Defense with MISO competencies. USCENTCOM also provided internet-based MISO for CJTF-OIR and the USCENTCOM area of responsibility. Between 2016 and 2019, USCENTCOM and CJTF-OIR also developed campaign plans and operation orders with MISO tasks to counter Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
We determined that U.S. forces in Iraq planned and executed MISO in accordance with joint doctrine and also coordinated MISO with Coalition forces, the Government of Iraq, and DOS. However, after the physical defeat of the ISIS caliphate, U.S. forces and the U.S. Embassy-Baghdad did not initiate the required coordination to transition messaging from the DoD to DOS.
This lack of coordination on the transitioning of messaging responsibilities occurred because USCENTCOM and CJTF-OIR plans and orders did not include the requirements to plan for the transition of messaging from the DoD to DOS.
In addition, USCENTCOM did not plan for the transition of counter-ISIS messaging from the DoD to DOS because the DoD required a request for support from DOS prior to initiating the requirements validation and force identification process. Also, USCENTCOM could not finalize MISO-related force structure, command relationships, or authorities without DOS input.
Additionally, USCENTCOM staff did not provide evidence that USCENTCOM had asked DOS for a request for support.
If the U.S. forces and U.S. Embassy-Baghdad do not coordinate on how to transition messaging efforts, there is an increased risk that the United States will not be able to influence attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors in the Iraqi information environment following OIR. Additionally, inconsistent U.S. messaging in Iraq could occur following OIR because of the lack of coordination between DoD and DOS information activities.
We recommend that the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, in coordination with the Department of State, develop a plan for interagency coordination and integration of U.S. Government messaging efforts in Iraq.
We recommend that the Commander of U.S. Central Command, in coordination with the U.S. Embassy-Baghdad, define U.S. forces' roles and responsibilities and identify DOS counterparts to support the transition of U.S. Government messaging requirements and responsibilities from the DoD to the U.S. Embassy-Baghdad in Iraq.
We recommend the Commander of U.S. Central Command, after coordination with the U.S. Embassy-Baghdad, modify the existing transition plans and orders to assign U.S. forces' roles and responsibilities in the transition of messaging from the DoD to the U.S. Embassy-Baghdad in Iraq.
Management Comments and Our Response
The Principal Director of Special Operations and Combating Terrorism, responding for the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, neither agreed nor disagreed and stated that OUSD(P) considers transition of post OIR MISO, and broader Information Operations, to be an operational-level planning function best led by the Combatant Command. She stated that OUSD (Policy) will facilitate higher-level discussions with interagency partners as required to enable any agreed-upon transition of CJTF-OIR messaging. As a result of management comments, we redirected Recommendation 1 to the Commander of U.S. Central Command.
The Chief of Information Operations Division, U.S. Central Command, responding for the Commander of U.S. Central Command, agreed with Recommendations 2 and 3.
Recommendation 1, redirected from the draft report, is unresolved, and we request that the Commander of U.S. Central Command provide comments on this revised recommendation no later than March 31, 2020. Recommendations 2 and 3 are resolved but will remain open. We will close Recommendations 2 and 3 when we verify that the Commander of U.S. Central Command has taken the agreed upon actions.
This report is the result of Proj. No. D2019-DEV000-0150.000