Daesh propaganda is good. It’s very good. America has been struggling along the ideological front since before 9/11. After 9/11, Secretary Rumsfeld famously graded our line of efforts there a D+. Unlike our psychological warfare approach in WWII, we’ve had several halting starts and stops since the GWOT began. Rumsfeld closed down the Office of Strategic Influence shortly after it was established. PSYOP support elements and military information support teams have worked under the auspices of SOCOM and JSOC throughout the fight, but never in a centralized capacity.
The latest evolution in our desultory approach is the reorganization of the counter-propaganda office at State, now the Global Engagement Center. Once confirmed, the small, underfunded group will be headed by its fourth leader in less than two years: the former assistant secretary of defense for SOLIC (Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict), Michael Lumpkin. The latest changes come on the heels of the recommendations from a panel of civilian marketing experts from Silicon Valley, including representatives from giants like Google.
ASD Lumpkin has a fairly good reputation within the PSYOP regiment. Unlike previous ASDs, he has taken an active interest in growing the force and its capabilities. He understands how influence and behavioral change are critical to SOF and UW efforts. In fact, losing him as the ASD SOLIC is probably going to hurt the PSYOP regiment in the short term.
There is no doubt that Mr. Lumpkin is going to do a great job in this position. The question is, is a former Navy SEAL the best person to manage such a highly specialized organization? SEALs are great at what they do, and ASD Lumpkin has an exemplary record, but strategic influence isn’t their mission.