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Document created: 1 September 05
Air & Space Power Journal - Fall 2005

Public Affairs and Information Operations

A Strategy for Success

Maj Tadd Sholtis, USAF

Editorial Abstract: Major Sholtis notes that commanders are looking for better ways to use the global information environment to win the hearts and minds of Muslim populations and retain the goodwill of traditional allies. Their efforts occur against a backdrop of individuals who advocate the integration of public affairs (PA) and information operations (IO) and those who argue for their separation. The author observes that as the public face of our joint forces, PA cannot thrive unless it is integrated with all core operational capabilities, including IO.

From the Department of Defense’s attempts (ultimately withdrawn) to set up an Office of Strategic Influence several years ago to more recent decisions establishing similarly conceived strategic-communications staffs as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, much discussion has dealt with the proper employment of the US military’s various capabilities for providing information to public audiences. Specifically, the debate has addressed the proper distinction between public affairs (PA) and the more diverse collection of information activities grouped under the doctrinal umbrella of information operations (IO). The New York Times warns of “blurring the traditional lines” between PA and IO, “leaving the American public and a world audience skeptical of anything the Defense Department and military say—a repeat of the credibility gap that roiled America during the Vietnam War.”1 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has issued a warning about the risks of PA-IO integration, and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has gone on record to advocate a “firewall separation between IO and PA.”2 As Air Force planners approach this debate to define the role of PA and IO at the operational level of war, we need to understand the public context of the debate and some of the major factors shaping service views of both disciplines. Beyond defining how PA and IO are either understood or misunderstood today, the Air Force must seize the opportunity to address some fundamental questions about the operational role of public communication through a comprehensive review of its information programs.

The Current Debate:
Myths about Public Affairs and
 Information Operations

The recurring question in the current public debate over PA and IO asks whether PA’s involvement in a broader strategic-information campaign inherently damages the military’s credibility with media representatives and, by extension, the audiences served by those media. Expressed from a reporter’s perspective, “If I know that public communication is part of a military strategy, when do we reach the point where the military’s honesty becomes the victim of its objectives?” At the risk of seeming too dismissive, a perfectly reasonable response to this question is “What else is new?” Although a large and politically divisive military operation like the one in Iraq certainly raises the stakes on all sides, some version of the PA-IO debate has been with us at least since the fourth century BC, when Sun Tzu’s Art of War broadly characterized successful military strategy as a matter of deception. From ancient China to the front page of today’s newspaper, many people still regard truth as the first casualty of war.

The battle over truth remains a constant in today’s global-information environment, not only between the media and the military but also among various media outlets and rival private or public entities. In the present media marketplace, a certain degree of advocacy for an organization’s vision of the truth is commonplace. In fact, most media representatives, while stressing the importance of seeking out independent or opposing viewpoints, admit that they are often unable to do their jobs without the support of public-relations “flaks.”3 Why, then, have efforts to develop military PA and IO capabilities suited to this environment met with so much resistance? For many military outsiders and some insiders, the tendency to reject proposals for a closer PA-IO relationship is often grounded in four myths important to understanding the way ahead for both disciplines.

Myth One: Information Operations Involve Lying

Many people who have spoken in favor of a PA-IO firewall do so because they are convinced that the two functions serve entirely different moral ends. PA officers must tell the truth. Information operators, many believe, are paid to lie. In reality the small, highly compartmentalized specialty of military deception is the only branch of IO that knowingly provides false information—often accomplished merely by allowing the enemy to reach his own wrong conclusions about observed facts. Psychological operations (PSYOP), the larger segment of IO’s influence capabilities, provide factual information—including rebroadcasts of straight news stories—although PSYOP methods often rely on emotional appeals more similar to advertising than journalism.

Myth Two: Credibility Is an Absolute

An extreme but no less prevalent permutation of the “IO involves lying” myth is the argument-clinching assertion that, regardless of the true nature of IO, even the perception of an association between IO and PA is enough to destroy credibility. Immediately. Forever. With everyone. This is nonsense—for two reasons. First, credibility varies from situation to situation, outlet to outlet, spokesman to spokesman, and audience to audience. The credibility of an infantryman talking to Fox News differs from the credibility of a senior Pentagon official talking to al-Jazeera, even if they’re talking on the same day about similar topics. Second, saying that public communication cannot succeed without credibility puts us up against the hard facts that our enemies have had good media success without being particularly truthful, and that modern media are often more concerned with framing ideological conflict than with judging which version of the truth is right.

Certainly, the need to maintain credibility is an institutional value; as such, it presents a perceptual challenge that the military must overcome with key publics as it defines the PA-IO nexus. But the existence of that obstacle is not in itself a reason we should consider the two functions utterly incompatible.4

Myth Three: Advocacy Is Politics

Another argument that has emerged most clearly during Iraqi Freedom maintains that a strategic approach to PA—one that aligns public communication with military objectives—is inherently political, whereas PA activities on behalf of the military as a public institution should remain apolitical. This stance derives almost entirely from media skepticism about the Iraq war and the resulting assumption that any attempt to highlight good news from that theater must be part of the ideological thrust-and-parry between the Bush administration and its foes in the mainstream media. In reality, though, the military assists in the reporting of a good deal of bad news from Iraq, so anyone accusing PA of bowing to political pressure needs to carefully consider the difference between seeking balance and taking sides. Right or wrong, America’s elected leaders made the political decision to commit military forces to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the stabilization of Iraq. Following that decision, honest attempts by military communicators to convince various audiences that those forces were making a difference are often better interpreted as part of a strategy for mission success—not as partisan jingoism.

Myth Four: People and Media Are Sheep

A final argument—one that, oddly enough, finds its way directly or by inference into many media articles on the topic—holds that the military should curtail its efforts to “push” information to media outlets because the public, or the outlets that serve them, are either too lazy or stupid to make distinctions between a PA product informed by one source and a genuine news product informed by multiple sources.5 Like the argument that perceives advocacy as politics, this position is better understood as a larger problem of the information environment than a specific failure or corruption of military-communication efforts within that environment. If a television news program will run a military news-release video—or, for that matter, an insurgent group’s digital video of a beheading—without placing that information in the context of its source, that certainly constitutes a problem. Ultimately, though, such a problem must be negotiated between that news program and an audience with access to many other information sources.

A casualty count is a fact. A criminal charge against a US soldier accused of abusing an -enemy prisoner is a fact. The military continues to meet its civic obligations to release information on this kind of “bad” news, which has no problem getting the immediate, worldwide attention it deserves. But the construction of a school for needy children in a war zone is also a fact. Can one seriously accuse the military of shirking civic responsibility if it puts some effort into getting more positive facts into the margins of media consciousness?

The American military must maintain public trust, and leaders must take action whenever communication efforts push or exceed the bounds of credibility. To attribute the military’s recent stumbles in public communication to some kind of evil influence from IO, however, is both to misunderstand what PA and IO are and, more importantly, to miss the true opportunities for reform opened by this debate.

The Current Doctrine:
Diverging Concerns

The challenge for Air Force leaders, then, lies in defining and organizing PA and IO forces in a way that corrects these persistent misunderstandings and provides the most effective information capabilities for the service. Unfortunately, this task is complicated rather than simplified by the differences between service and joint doctrine. Since late 1999, Air Force doctrine has envisioned a fairly cozy supporting relationship between PA and IO. The most recent revision of the doctrine, for example, describes PA as “an important and necessary military capability of influence operations”—the branch of IO that includes PSYOP and military deception.6 In contrast to the Air Force’s approach, newly revised Joint Publication 3-61, Public Affairs, takes greater pains to distance PA from IO.7 While the language of doctrine is broad enough only to suggest the split, differences between the Air Force and the joint community in IO capabilities, cultures, and methods for collecting information at the operational level of war suggest deeper reasons for divergent service concerns about the PA-IO relationship.


A joint force commander (JFC) has a fairly extensive menu of IO capabilities or enabling forces to choose from in a major operation, including a joint PSYOP task force and the support of civil-affairs units trained for direct engagement with foreign communities. However, many of these disciplines—either as a result of legal restrictions or the degree of specialization involved—operate fairly independently. Therefore, the JFC needs to have an IO plan that coordinates and deconflicts these efforts toward common operational objectives while capturing their diverse contributions to the fight in a way easily understood by operators.

In contrast, the Air Force’s current IO capabilities are much more limited but highly integrated. When an Air Force officer serving as the joint force air component commander (JFACC) expresses the need for an IO plan, he or she is probably not discussing things accepted as givens—such as the use of F-16CJs or EA-6Bs to destroy or jam components of an enemy air-defense network, even though one finds these capabilities grouped under the IO umbrella in Air Force doctrine. Electronic attack, defense, and deception capabilities—as well as the ability to support the JFC’s influence operations with airborne platforms such as the EC-130E/J Commando Solo—are already integrated into component planning in an advanced way. Although perhaps not doctrinally sound, the purely informational influence options typically presented to a JFACC—those that do not depend upon blowing things up or generating aircraft sorties—lean heavily toward PA efforts, such as countering enemy propaganda. In terms of what the commander’s forces can actually do to deliver information to a target audience, then, it is harder for the JFACC to distinguish between PA and IO.


All military organizations are hierarchical, but some are more hierarchical than others. In the joint world, the emphasis in IO falls on operations, and the head of the JFC’s IO effort takes direction from the J-3. From this vantage point, some people see PA-IO integration as a path to PA’s becoming one of many functions under the J-3. If this happens, they believe that PA is subjected to highly structured operational ways of doing business that impair PA’s effectiveness, corrupt its purpose, and challenge its status as a direct adviser to the commander.8

Loss of PA’s identity as a function distinct from operations is no small concern, especially when the immediate global effects and personal accountability associated with public communication during a conflict demand rapid responsiveness from the highest levels of command. This tension, although still present, is less noticeable in the looser organization of a JFACC’s air and space operations center (AOC), where divisions and specialty teams made up of Airmen from different functional cultures work in a more collaborative way.


Ironically, the same broad cultural concern driving some members of the joint community to resist PA-IO integration—keeping PA in front of the commander as a public responsibility and key consideration in long-term mission success—also motivates certain people in the Air Force to seek greater PA-IO integration in the air component’s main weapon system: the AOC, which depends upon skilled crew members trained in its processes, language, and communication systems. As the command and control (C2) node for the air component, it is the place where tactical events come together to provide a theaterwide picture—exactly the kind of picture PA needs to paint for media trying to put their near--instantaneous observations of tactical events in context. The AOC also offers centralized access to aircraft weapon-system video; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance imagery collected by theater assets; and other visual information essential to effectively countering enemy propaganda, as well as the ability to task some of these collection assets in support of specific information efforts.

To have effective access to the information-collection capabilities and decision-making processes contained in the AOC—access limited by real or perceived caps on manpower, training slots, and security clearances—some Air Force PA planners have felt the need to make a case for operationalizing PA or weaponizing information. Doing so equates to defining a close functional relationship between IO, which has an established seat in the AOC as a specialty team, and PA, still widely perceived as a mission-support function living outside the AOC (perhaps even geographically separated from it), on a logistics-focused Air Force forces (AFFOR) staff.9

The joint community does not share these specific motivations for establishing a PA-IO link since the prerequisites for plugging into C2 information are not as rigid in other services or on joint staffs. However, the trend toward collaboratively meshing PA and IO on strategic-communication staffs in Iraq indicates that the time may be ripe for a serious effort by the Air Force to define how we should organize, train, and equip public-information forces for future joint operations.

Time for a Review

Such a comprehensive effort to build organizing concepts for PA and IO deserves more attention that it gets from the few disconnected officers currently submitting and rejecting document edits as the Air Force makes its normal rounds of updating doctrine; instructions; plans; and tactics, techniques, and procedures. Information superiority remains the Air Force’s single greatest weakness. No enemy on the planet can match or physically overcome our ability to deliver decisive kinetic effects; however, enemy forces can—and do—limit the scope or impact of those operations through information that questions our effectiveness, degrades our morale, and builds public support against our operations. We can win any battle, but the war is up for grabs when it requires sustained commitment from international populations or even a plurality of Americans.

Given the tremendous information challenge facing the Air Force in this century, PA and IO could certainly benefit from a comprehensive, leadership-directed, cross-functional, expert review—something similar to an Eagle Look. Such a review would closely examine what PA and IO can be, based on current law and other existing restraints; what those capabilities should be, based on the opportunities and challenges of the information environment; and what the Air Force as a whole must do to get from where it is to where it needs to be. Although such a strategic review would necessarily involve inputs from many quarters, the following five suggestions serve as starting points for developing a strategy for success in PA and IO.

Do Not Define PA and IO Solely in Terms of Audience

Whatever its faults, the concept of strategic communication embraces the difficulty of separating the effects of PA and IO in the information environment. This difficulty even applies to military deception, which, almost by definition, consists of openly observable facts that PA must at least be aware of if not prepared to discuss. The somewhat naïve solution currently offered by joint doctrine and the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards, among others, seems to call for theorizing separate information spheres: one in which PA engages global news media and builds support among US, coalition, or neutral populations, and one in which IO employs its capabilities to influence the enemy. Can such a distinction really exist when the enemy, even if easily segregated from larger populations, gets his information from the same satellite news channels or Internet sites potentially used by millions?

Any attempt to simplify the PA and IO “job jars” strictly by intended audiences will lead to a situation whereby PA “owns” communication to friendly audiences through inter-national media, while IO owns communication to presumably hostile audiences through smaller local information sources. Such an approach would result in the production of uncoordinated information products that inevitably affect all audiences in unpredictable and indiscriminate ways.

Accept the Fact That PA and IO Can and Should Cooperate in Influence Operations

Globalization’s smoothing of the seams between formerly segmented audiences makes it imperative that PA and IO integrate strategies and tactics to present consistent messages. Because of audience and message overlaps, a defined PA-IO relationship at least must allow for the equivalent of “blue-force tracking”—knowing what information is being released through what sources to what audiences at any point in time—to avoid information fratricide. Beyond deconflicting information release, though, a second fundamental reason requires that influence operations become a cooperative effort between PA and IO: the question of efficiency. The military has too few resources or trained communicators of any stripe—PA or IO—to deal adequately with the overwhelming information demands of major conflicts, much less protracted counterinsurgency campaigns, nation-building efforts, or steady-state security-cooperation initiatives. Fully capable PA and IO forces inevitably would see overlaps in areas such as skills training, planning products, or assessment tools. Success in a world largely unconcerned with the fine distinctions of US law, military doctrine, or professional standards will require that we do what we legally and ethically can to make the most of what we have.

Understand That Both PA and IO Have Real and Necessary Limits

An important part of achieving these efficiencies will come when people see PA and IO as distinct tactical approaches to shared information objectives. As such, they can benefit from better integration at the strategic-planning level, but even more from defined constraints on the kinds of tactical actions in which each specialty should be involved. The tactics used by each specialty—as well as the technical know-how needed to implement those tactics—can be significantly different, although both clearly attempt to influence human perceptions of similar circumstances (see table). The difference becomes starker when we consider the potential effects of these tactics. The IO messages are unambiguous, while the PA messages allow media and audiences to draw their own, possibly contrary, conclusions. The reach of the IO product is limited to people who actively pick up the leaflet or tune in to specific broadcast frequencies; the PA message can, but sometimes does not, permeate many different media available to an audience.

To put the issue in kinetic terms, IO messages in many cases resemble precision-guided bunker-buster munitions: the small number of military people in the bunker intended as targets of that weapon are immediately affected in a definite way, but, for the most part, everyone else remains oblivious of the effect. PA, however, resembles a GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb: many more people—hostile, neutral, and friendly—see or feel the effect, but not everyone is affected in the same way. Both munitions have value, but both also have appropriate constraints and restraints on their practical use.

Table. Sample information tactics employed in support of military objectives


IO Influence Tactic

PA Tactic


Deter the enemy from engaging in military action.

Broadcast radio messages on the futility of military operations against a superior force.

Demonstrate military resolve by promoting media coverage of the deployment of combat-capable forces to the region.

Degrade the enemy’s Integrated Air Defense System.

Drop leaflets in the vicinity of surface-to-air missile positions showing missile launchers being destroyed by aircraft.

Conduct media interviews on the capabilities of friendly aircraft in the suppression-of-enemy-air-defenses mission.

Isolate enemy leadership from its fielded forces.

Disseminate messages over enemy communication channels showing that enemy leaders do not deserve the loyalty of their troops.

Provide media with messages, facts, and visual products demonstrating international participation in or support of friendly military action against enemy leadership.

In terms of tactical limitations, for example, PA can do very little to subdue a violent insurgency that has taken firm hold of a specific geographic area (e.g., a city). Even when residents of that city have access to independent media, they have no ability to influence events. In such a case, IO can wear down insurgent morale or support friendly kinetic operations while PA focuses on building a public case for decisive military action. On the other hand, in an effort to convince people in an area the size of a country not to join an insurgency, IO is not the way to go. Regardless of military leaders’ appreciation of the input-equals--output logic of IO products, independent or hostile media will contest even the most widespread and persistent application of an IO message. Broad popular conviction must be won on the more expansive but marshy terrain of PA and public diplomacy.

Educate Commanders about Information Effects

Part of the reason PA and IO lack the kind of strategic focus needed to apply appropriate ends to means is that commanders do not have a complete understanding or appreciation of the capabilities, limits, and risks associated with information activities. This is particularly true in the emerging era of effects-based operations, when some commanders seem to have adopted an almost axiomatic belief that the effects of information activities are beyond concern because they are beyond control—that is, one cannot meaningfully assess PA and influence operations.

The fact is that communication can be measured. Sometimes the measurement of an information effect is binary. That is, an individual or group, asked to do something at a particular point in time, either will do it or not. Someone wishing to provide specific information to a specific audience through a specific medium either places the information in the medium or not. One can also examine qualitative or quantitative trends over time by looking at groups of message receivers (through surveys and focus groups, two of the most widespread assessment activities on the planet, even during war) or groups of messages themselves (through media-content analysis).

Planned and executed correctly, these methodologies can provide data to drive timely, useful decision making. For example, Air Force PA planners may determine that “good” media coverage of an operation includes information about our effectiveness at striking various types of enemy targets, which both undermines enemy morale and contributes to the broader public perception that military forces are making progress toward an achievable end state. If content analysis demonstrates that successful insurgent attacks on US forces crowd out coverage of other operational successes, the JFACC may choose to put more effort into getting out information about airpower’s ability to attack time-sensitive targets like insurgent cells or about our success in doing so.10 One can also apply content analysis to the military’s own PA and IO products, ensuring that diverse communication activities contain the strategic themes or messages commanders consider most important during given periods of time.

We need to better educate senior officers in the application of PA and IO—especially flag officers likely to serve as operational spokespeople. Unless the Air Force makes room to develop more senior PA officers with more extensive operational experience, such spokespeople may be a necessity: they benefit from the authority conferred by rank and from deeper familiarity with the planning and execution of operations. Although thorough coordination of PA and IO remains essential for strategic planning, a head spokesperson is by definition a PA officer who should operate using the full range of PA capabilities while also observing PA’s tactical restrictions. Put another way, if a JFC or JFACC appoints a senior officer as head spokesperson and makes him or her responsible for actually running a public-information effort—rather than merely conducting a limited number of interviews and press conferences, working from provided plans and -guidance—that officer is the commander’s PA officer, regardless of background or experience. Such a spokesperson should not pick and choose between IO or PA tactics when divergences occur but should approach the task of organizing and executing public communication from a distinctly PA mind-set. Doing so implies a greater degree of advance familiarization with the proper roles of PA and IO for operators identified as spokespeople-to-be.

Develop PA as an Operational Capability

The less Air Force commanders understand about PA and IO, the less they will demand from them in exercises or operations. Low expectations lead to devoting little thought, effort, or resources to maturing PA and IO forces; in turn, the uneven readiness of those forces negatively reinforces commander expectations. Commanders must help break this vicious circle, but PA and IO leaders must offer solutions to their bosses.

The need for top-down reform is more acute in the Air Force PA community—which, for better or worse, is well established—than in IO, which remains a developing organizational concept. Many of the hopes and fears currently borne by IO are more properly carried by our worldwide PA forces: as already noted, a commander’s need for PA operations at every level often outstrips the need for IO. Yet PA forces, with full commander support, must better organize, train, and equip themselves to meet this urgent need. Creating the conditions that would allow PA to grow as an operational capability in the Air Force would involve changes large and small. Basically, however, five characteristics define a truly operational PA capability:

• Full integration in the C2 system. Each of the Air Force’s new war-fighting headquarters needs two types of PA capability in each AOC: a PA-plans element (which integrates information collecting, packaging, and disseminating strategies with the work of the Strategy and Combat Plans Divisions) and a PA-operations element (which mines information systems and specialists in combat operations to identify, collect, and coordinate emerging information relevant to the strategy). Both capabilities require PA forces with training and experience different from those supporting traditional media and internal information functions.

• Rigorous training and evaluation. The Air Force must augment entry-level instruction at the Defense Information School with training and experience that qualifies PA forces for operational assignments. A tour as an action officer or a commander in an IO or joint strategic-communications organization does not disqualify PA Airmen from future roles as public communicators: we can send these Airmen right back to work with media on their next assignment. More robust PA training and career development then must be validated through tougher inspection criteria. PA must deploy more senior advisers and robust “white cells” to major exercises to provide PA mentoring and realistic, responsive media scenarios.

• Commitment to assessment. PA must join with IO to research, fund, and field methods and tools that will give trained but geographically dispersed communication staffs the ability to plug into relevant, ongoing public-survey or content-analysis -efforts or quickly develop contingency--specific assessment programs.

• Better engagement at a regional level. In peacetime the PA staffs of the restructured war-fighting headquarters should focus on activities largely ignored today: regional PA planning, climate assessment and monitoring, cultural-communications training, and the steady-state engagement needed to build confidence with regional media and opinion leaders during a contingency.

• Ability to surge quickly to support media response and news generation. Most steady-state public-communication requirements for Air Force units differ significantly in size and scope from those during a major military operation. Existing air-and-space-expeditionary-force pairs and Air Reserve Component PA authorizations may need reorganizing to create modular capabilities to support surges in traditional media operations and news generation—the production of strategically aligned multimedia information for rapid dissemination through both internal and external media. In building this capability, however, it is important to note that a modular capability is not quite the same thing for PA as it is for many capabilities linked to agile combat support. A larger, more active base does not equate to greater required PA support. Instead, we should base the requirement on the unit’s projected need in terms of mission supported, public-access restrictions, and the expected information demand of media or community representatives in the region.


In his book on al-Qaeda, veteran Middle East reporter Jason Burke describes the importance of jihad, martyrdom, and “the spectacular” to the “revolutionary vanguard” of -Islamic extremists: “By using modern communications the vanguard in self-imposed (and more secure) exile can reach out to the population at large without the possibly compromising, and lengthy, process of mobilization through grassroots organization and activism.”11 The global war on terrorism aims to eliminate the various physical safe havens from which this vanguard can operate, but, as we have been warned, the process is a slow one. While that long struggle is under way, we cannot neglect to engage the enemy in his virtual safe haven: a global-information environment where extremists build the credibility they need for recruiting, financing, and establishing other forms of support.

To the extent that we can employ or develop IO capabilities to engage the enemy in this environment, we should do so. Barring quantum leaps in capabilities and changes in US law, however, IO can and should operate only on the margins of foreign public opinion, influencing small numbers of people to promote discreet operational effects. For the foreseeable future, the messy heart of influence will lie beyond the definite grasp of IO, in the way well-executed PA and public diplomacy shape how our actions are perceived and discussed by media and the cultural groups that collect information from those media.

Resolving the strategic issue of how to organize, train, equip, and employ our diverse public-information capabilities to maximum effect is not something the Air Force can put on the back burner. The less Airmen understand PA and IO—insofar as we see communication as a distraction from the business of war fighting rather than an essential precondition for the use of force—the more we put war fighting itself at risk.

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1. Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, “Hearts and Minds: Pentagon Weighs Use of Deception in a Broad Arena,” New York Times, 13 December 2004.

2. “Policy on Public Affairs Relationship to Information Operations,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Memorandum CM-2077-04, 27 September 2004; and “Telling the Truth, Especially in Wartime,” Professional Standards Advisory PS-5, Public Relations Society of America, 31 January 2005, http://www.prsa.org/_News/leaders/ps50114.asp.

3. In just one example of the trend, the 25 March 2002 issue of PR Week reports a study by Bob Williams, an ethics fellow at the Poynter Institute, indicating that media use of official spokespeople as primary sources in news coverage rose 81 percent between 1995 and 2000.

4. For a more detailed consideration of the role of credibility for PA, see the author’s article “Planning for Legitimacy: A Joint Operational Approach to Public Affairs,” Chronicles Online Journal, 10 June 2005, airchronicles/cc/sholtis.html.

5. See, for example, Sig Christenson, “Viewers Don’t Always Know Source of Footage,” San Antonio Express-News, 13 March 2005.

6. Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 2-5.3, Public Affairs Operations, 24 June 2005, 2.

7. Joint Publication 3-61, Public Affairs, 9 May 2005, especially chap. 3, par. 4.

8. For example, see Col William M. Darley, “Why Public Affairs Is Not Information Operations,” Army Magazine 55, no. 1 (January 2005), http://www.ausa.org/armymagazine.

9. The split between AOC and AFFOR staffs as the two primary components of a JFACC’s war-fighting capability is described in the “Air Force Forces Command and Control Enabling Concept,” change 1, 7 March 2005. Paragraphs 7.4 and 9.2 define the basic organization of the war-fighting headquarters staff into an AOC and AFFOR staff. Paragraph 9.5.7 lists IO as a specialty team within the AOC. Although paragraph specifies that PA “maintains a support team within the AOC,” it remains to be determined what this statement means for the PA manpower footprint in the AOC’s unit-type-code baseline, the chains of command for PA personnel operating inside and outside the AOC, and the prerequisites needed to incorporate PA staff into the AOC weapon system.

10. The example derives from the consideration of just one variable of media content, whereas a more complex analysis would need to encompass multiple variables through the entire course of an operation. The author’s online article cited in note 4 outlines one possible assessment system based on four components of a military operation’s perceived legitimacy.

11. Jason Burke, Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam (New York: I. B. Tauris & Co., Ltd., 2004), 34.


Maj Tadd Sholtis

Maj Tadd Sholtis (USAFA; MA, Pennsylvania State University) is assigned to the Resources and Readiness Division of the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Public Affairs at the Pentagon. As chief of Public Affairs for Headquarters Sixteenth Air Force in 2003, he served as chief of Public Affairs for Europe-based 16th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also worked in Baghdad in 2004 as a plans officer for the Coalition Provisional Authority’s Office of Strategic Communication and the US Embassy’s Public Affairs Section.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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