WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Defense has named the undersecretary of defense for policy as the point person for information operations, a spokesman confirmed to C4ISRNET.

As mandated in the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, the DoD must designate a person — dubbed the principal information operations adviser — to counsel the defense secretary on information operations.

“In support of the 2018 National Defense Strategy and as mandated by the FY 2020 NDAA, the Department has designated the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy as the Principal Information Operations Advisor, with the primary focus of helping the Department improve its ability to integrate and supervise operations in the information environment,” Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a DoD spokesman, told C4ISRNET. “We recognize the increasing importance of information to our competitive military advantage.”

State and nonstate actors alike have become more active in the so-called information environment in recent years, recognizing they can conduct operations to achieve desired outcomes while remaining below the threshold of armed conflict. In other words, they aren’t met with military retaliation.

Creating a top adviser on information operations and capabilities can serve as the glue that unifies strategies and concepts between the various efforts in the DoD and the services, according to Joseph Kirschbaum, the director of defense capabilities and management at the Government Accountability Office, who spoke to C4ISRNET in June.

He previously wrote a report, titled “Information Operations: DoD Should Improve Leadership and Integration Efforts,” that was mandated by Congress and published in October 2019. The report, however, is classified.

“The model for that is the principal cyber advisor," he said. "We have seen the difference in how the management of some of the department’s cyber strategies have been done over the last couple of years because of that office’s role.

"Our work on some of the cyber issues, just like they were on the information operations, was some of the same kind of things that you might expect that we found. That there’s strategies: There were gaps in how they’re implementing strategies.”

Kirchbaum also said the DoD agreed with all of the GAO’s recommendations, but because of the direction Congress wanted to go, the department is taking action to correct issues identified by the watchdog. As such, the Pentagon is now beginning to take these threats seriously with a variety of reorganizations and reorientations, recognizing the department’s need to fully embrace influence and information operations.

Other top experts and former government officials have suggested that in this hotly contested “competition” space, information should be the primary focus that is supported by more physical operations, a true departure from how the DoD is used to operating.

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.

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