The disconnect between the Front Line and our VSOs

This is not a post about how out of touch our VSOs are; it's about how out of touch the Front Line is.


This is Com JFC talking about Warfare in the Information Age; it is about 180 deg and 120nm away from my "lived experience" (and that of anyone else in a busy front line unit at the moment).

How do we bridge the gap, what can we do make these visions reality?
 
Perhaps, when VSOs visit units, allow the truth to be spoken rather than do the normal white wash of having everything looking immaculate and the blokes allowed to speak. Surely these VSOs can't have forgotten how much of a bluff these visits are.
As for the speech content, great high brow stuff from a strategic perspective but how about bringing bit down a layer or two and explaining what it's going to mean at unit/sub unit level.
 
The problem, to my mind isn't about VSO visits - and I doubt my team are unique in being entirely open and honest with VSOs! It is the filtering, modulating and general inertia that happens between ideas that Gen Barrons has been talking about over the last 3 years and the Front Line.

As for the content to sub-unit level: where is the OC's social media op order, what is it going to be like for his Sub Unit in terms of "real life support" (corrimec camping or in partially destroyed buildings), how does he call in fires (cyber, electronic or HE). Most importantly, has he and his sub-unit trained for all this?
 
I liked the section on "our historical experience of war" diverging from that of most of the rest of the world and how we need to ground ourselves in the reality.

I think it's critical that VSOs realise in their guts that war has stopped being a low-risk/risk-free alternative to diplomacy and started selling their Lords and Masters on the concept that it's risky, lethal and utterly awful with unpleasant consequences whether you win or lose.

I'm not sold on his idea of info ops at the core of military ops. To take his own example, I'm not sure if I were a Mosuli resident, I'd be all that convinced that NATO aircraft were dropping bombs on me for my own good. It wouldn't matter how much I liked or loathed ISIS, if NATO killed a family member and ISIS didn't, I know who I'd be less keen on. All the tweeting in the world wouldn't change that.
 

Auld-Yin

ADC
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Perhaps, when VSOs visit units, allow the truth to be spoken rather than do the normal white wash of having everything looking immaculate and the blokes allowed to speak. Surely these VSOs can't have forgotten how much of a bluff these visits are.
As for the speech content, great high brow stuff from a strategic perspective but how about bringing bit down a layer or two and explaining what it's going to mean at unit/sub unit level.
To be fair it was at RUSI so aimed at the "high brow stuff" that RUSI normally works at.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
I liked the section on "our historical experience of war" diverging from that of most of the rest of the world and how we need to ground ourselves in the reality.

I think it's critical that VSOs realise in their guts that war has stopped being a low-risk/risk-free alternative to diplomacy and started selling their Lords and Masters on the concept that it's risky, lethal and utterly awful with unpleasant consequences whether you win or lose.
I suspect that recent campaigns have rather proven that, however it won't stop politicians asking for what they want to hear rather than realities.

I'm not sold on his idea of info ops at the core of military ops.
Yes and no. The multimedia world we live in makes information provision and - even - manipulation more important than ever before. Our various, nebulous oppositions realise that. We, on the other hand, retain within the armed forces a traditional resistance/antipathy to the media. Sometimes it's deserved, sometimes not. However, governments cannot on the on hand hope to cynically massage the news to 'good' effect (usually on party political, rather than national security, lines), and on the other complain that they're 'losing' the information war.

In an environment like that, it's no wonder those who actually get their hands dirty are disdainful.

'Media campaigning' (if I may call it that) needs to be seen as an important additional, not an awkward bolt-on or a soft alternative.

To take his own example, I'm not sure if I were a Mosuli resident, I'd be all that convinced that NATO aircraft were dropping bombs on me for my own good. It wouldn't matter how much I liked or loathed ISIS, if NATO killed a family member and ISIS didn't, I know who I'd be less keen on. All the tweeting in the world wouldn't change that.
Perhaps, in the immediate, and I speak as someone who's never had his or a relative's home bombed. On the other hand, non-communication allows the enemy to manipulate the news at their end: an unchallenged "They're bombing you because they see you as one more of us" is far more likely to result in a new convert to the cause than a Twitter campaign which looks to somehow reach through the bereavement and reinforce that the ultimate fault lies with the people around them, not some bloodthirsty and uncaring infidel government.
 
than a Twitter campaign which looks to somehow reach through the bereavement and reinforce that the ultimate fault lies with the people around them, not some bloodthirsty and uncaring infidel government.
It's a nice thought but how realistic? The 'blame' for the death ultimately lies with the side which drops the bomb, else we wind up buying into the whole justification of terrorists that they were 'forced' to do it by the other side.

I think a major fault in our communication strategy isn't the means but the message - that what we do is ultimately in some greater good. Nobody likes to hear that they're considered expendable for someone else's benefit, not even professional soldiers who sign up for it. How do you expect to win civvies over to that point of view?
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
It's a nice thought but how realistic? The 'blame' for the death ultimately lies with the side which drops the bomb, else we wind up buying into the whole justification of terrorists that they were 'forced' to do it by the other side.

I think a major fault in our communication strategy isn't the means but the message - that what we do is ultimately in some greater good. Nobody likes to hear that they're considered expendable for someone else's benefit, not even professional soldiers who sign up for it. How do you expect to win civvies over to that point of view?
Not for a moment disagreeing with you. However, to do nothing is to do less than nothing, if that makes sense?
 
Not for a moment disagreeing with you. However, to do nothing is to do less than nothing, if that makes sense?
I get the sentiment but I can't help the nagging feeling the Middle East would be a lot better off now if we'd done nothing in 2003.
 
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I get the sentiment but I can't help the nagging feeling the Middle East would be a lot better off now if we'd done nothing in 2003.
Whilst the geopolitical reality about the use of force is interesting, it's not quite what I was talking about. I'm more worried about how, we, in the Armed Forces seem entirely unable to change from our "normal jogging"...
 

Caecilius

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This is Com JFC talking about Warfare in the Information Age; it is about 180 deg and 120nm away from my "lived experience" (and that of anyone else in a busy front line unit at the moment).

How do we bridge the gap, what can we do make these visions reality?
Some of it is about breeding new concepts into our Officers and NCOs. If you want information to be considered as integral to our operations then that needs to be inculcated on command courses from a very junior level. The only issue with this is that a coordinated info ops plan can be somewhat incompatible with mission command; this was the experience on HERRICK where it was found that tight control of info ops were needed to ensure a coordinated message. I have no idea how our J2 are exploiting OSINT, but I'm seeing it mentioned ever more frequently so presumably this aspect is in hand to a certain extent.

Much of the rest of it will come in time. I didn't quite complete my buzzword bingo sheet because Com JFC didn't mention killer toasters this time, but he also didn't pass up the opportunity to talk about robotics again. He's thinking decades ahead here. Besides, for robotics to be a real consideration is simply a matter of time so it's an area for DSTL to focus on, not the rest of us just yet.
 
I suspect once we get used to "non-kinetic fires", the mission command thing might settle down - we have a solid way of co-ordinating the arrival of 155mm shells, words and pictures (and themes) should be no different!
 

Guns

ADC
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How about we don't drive out people with the skills but don't fit the career mould. An example.

There is a Lt Cdr who has over 10 years experience in the information domain. They have written both the RN Information Superiority Programme and an other allies Concept for Information Warfare. They have a proven track record in this area from an operational, operational support and policy level.

However they haven't been to sea as an XO, instead they concentrated in becoming a specialist in their field.

This means they are not going to get promoted or get the more punchy jobs.

In the end the officer will leave and industry are very keen to utilise those skills. The military will still have officers who have followed a narrow career path that does not prepare them in anyway for joint staff jobs or expose them to thinking outside of the military norm.

A thought.
 
I get the sentiment but I can't help the nagging feeling the Middle East would be a lot better off now if we'd done nothing in 2003.
Is it possible to draw a line between the invasion of Iraq and the current turmoil in the region and the knock on effect to the rest of the world and Europe in particular?

I think so but then again I'm no academic.


Wets.
 
Is it possible to draw a line between the invasion of Iraq and the current turmoil in the region and the knock on effect to the rest of the world and Europe in particular?

I think so but then again I'm no academic.


Wets.
Sadly, I think the ME was going to go crazy before Iraq. Growing youth population, high unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, poor uptake of useful higher education (a good chunk of a medical students time in the ME is still studying Islamic study's)

The whole region is in turmoil.

Why's Indonesia, the phillipines and sub Sahara Africa seeing the same problems?

Why not take the French approach in Mali and don't be too helpful to the press. Who needs info ops then.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Absolutely it is!
Potentially, but then Mohammed Bouazizi would still have set himself alight if we hadn't gone into Iraq. The 2003 invasion has created huge problems, most prominently Daesh, but I think the Middle East would still be in turmoil even if we'd left it alone. There's a strong chance Saddam would have fallen in the Arab Spring anyway.
 
Saddam would've gone, and we would have seen the same kind of result ("balkanisation" of Iq along Sunni, Shia and Kurd lines), with similar actors going for similar results. We'd probably have gone in as part of "peacekeeping/peace enforcing" construct, and we'd still have been smacked around by people who had an active interest in watching the country burn.
 

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