Army Establishes Psyops Branch

“Effective 16 October 2006, Psychological Operations was established as a basic branch of the Army, pursuant to the authority of Section 3063(a)(13), Title 10, United States Code.”

That is the substance of General Order 30 (pdf) issued by Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey on January 12, 2007.

According to the Department of Defense Dictionary (JP 1-02), psychological operations are defined as “planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. The purpose of psychological operations is to induce or reinforce foreign attitudes and behavior favorable to the originator’s objectives. Also called PSYOP.”

OMB Backs Away From Disputed Risk Assessment Policy

In an uncommon victory for the objectivity of the scientific advisory process, the Office of Management and Budget said that it would not implement a proposed new policy on regulatory risk assessments after a National Academy of Sciences panel said the policy was “fundamentally flawed.”

Last January the OMB issued a proposed “bulletin” (pdf) that prescribed new, centralized procedures for performing regulatory risk assessments.

But “the proposed definition of risk assessment in the OMB bulletin departs without justification from long-established concepts and practices,” the NAS panel said.

What’s worse, the proposed changes would mean that “agency risk assessments are more susceptible to being manipulated to achieve a predetermined result.”

Accordingly, the NAS panel recommended that the OMB bulletin be withdrawn. See this January 11 news release on the NAS report.

In light of the NAS critique, the OMB will not finalize the proposed bulletin, Rick Weiss of the Washington Post reported today.

See OMB Watch for further background on the OMB risk assessment proposal and the resulting controversy.

Enhanced Whistleblower Protections Proposed

A bill to amend and strengthen the Whistleblower Protection Act was introduced yesterday by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and several bipartisan Senate colleagues.

“Our legislation ensures that Federal whistleblowers are protected from retaliatory action when notifying the public and government leaders of waste, fraud, and abuse,” Senator Akaka said.

“If we fail to protect whistleblowers, then our efforts to improve government management, protect the public, and secure the nation will also fail.”

See Introduction of the “Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act,” January 11.

Even More from CRS

Some noteworthy, newly updated products of the Congressional Research Service that are not readily available in the public domain include the following (all pdf).

“Congressional Oversight Manual,” updated January 3, 2007.

“Paperwork Reduction Act Reauthorization and Government Information Management Issues,” updated January 4, 2007.

“Nuclear Arms Control: The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty,” updated January 3, 2007.

“Proliferation Control Regimes: Background and Status,” updated December 26, 2006.

Congress to ask President for update on National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza

Representatives Lowey (D-NY) and Emanuel (D-IL) are circulating a Dear Colleague letter to be delivered to the President asking him to update the Congress on the National Strategy on Pandemic Influenza. Released 8 months ago, the strategy includes over 300 activities designed to prepare the nation for a potential influenza pandemic. However, many of the activities will also prepare the nation for other public health emergencies including bioterrorism events. Since the activities are tied to benchmarks, Congress is looking to ensure that plans are moving forward.

Dear Colleague:

Please join us in sending the attached letter to President Bush requesting an update on the progress made in federal efforts to prepare for a possible pandemic flu outbreak.

Public health experts tell us it is a question of when, not if, an influenza pandemic will strike. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that the avian flu has infected 258 people worldwide, killing 154 of them, with the most recent deaths occurring in Egypt just last month.

On May 3, 2006, President Bush released the federal government’s National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Plan (NSPI) to coordinate federal efforts to prepare for a potential outbreak. The plan contains more than 300 activities to be performed by various federal agencies that are tied to specific accountability measures and timelines.

In our judgment, the eight months since the release of the NSPI are sufficient for the federal government to have made significant progress in executing at least a portion of its directives. While the status of many of the NSPI recommendations are listed on the federal pandemic flu website, not all of the relevant information has been made public.

Congress has a responsibility to carefully monitor the progress of the Administration in achieving the goals of its own plan. If you would like to sign this letter or have any questions, please contact Jean Doyle in Rep. Lowey’s office at [email protected], or Lauren Aronson in Rep. Emanuel’s office at [email protected]

Report: Militarization of U.S. Embassies Arouses Suspicion

The growing military presence at U.S. embassies abroad is arousing suspicion among some foreign officials and producing friction between civilian foreign service officers and military personnel, according to a new staff report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“There is evidence that some host countries are questioning the increasingly military component of America’s profile overseas,” the report found. “Some foreign officials question what appears to them as a new emphasis by the United States on military approaches to problems that are not seen as lending themselves to military solutions.”

“For the most part, ambassadors welcome the additional resources that the military brings and they see strong military-to-military ties as an important ingredient in a strong bilateral relationship. Nonetheless, State and USAID personnel often question the purposes, quantity, and quality of the expanded military activities in-country.”

“One ambassador lamented that his effectiveness in representing the United States to foreign officials was beginning to wane, as more resources are directed to special operations forces and intelligence. Foreign officials are ‘following the money’ in terms of determining which relationships to emphasize, he reported.”

“Left unclear, blurred lines of authority between the State Department and the Defense Department could lead to interagency turf wars that undermine the effectiveness of the overall U.S. effort against terrorism. It is in the embassies rather than in Washington where interagency differences on strategies, tactics and divisions of labor are increasingly adjudicated.”

See “Embassies as Command Posts in the Anti-Terror Campaign,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff report, December 15, 2006.

Update: Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times reported on the Committee report on December 20, and it was discussed the same day in WhirledView.

New Legislation and Congressional Publications

A recent Presidential signing statement on the Postal Reform Act “has resulted in considerable confusion and widespread concern about the President’s commitment to abide by the basic privacy protections afforded sealed domestic mail,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “For some, it raised the specter of the Government unlawfully monitoring our mail in the name of national security.”

To mitigate such concerns, Senator Collins yesterday introduced a proposed resolution to “reaffirm the fundamental constitutional and statutory protections accorded sealed domestic mail.”

The Federal Agency Data Mining Reporting Act of 2007 was introduced by Senators Russ Feingold (D-Wisc) and John Sununu (R-NH) to require agencies to report to Congress on their data mining activities.

The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded its review of the ABLE DANGER program with a letter report (pdf) finding that, contrary to claims advanced by former Rep. Curt Weldon and others, the program “never produced a chart with Mohammed Atta’s photograph or name prior to the 9/11 attacks.”

There are still “unanswered questions” about former national security advisor Samuel R. Berger’s unauthorized removal of classified records from the National Archives, according to a House Government Oversight Committee minority staff report. See “Sandy Berger’s Theft of Classified Documents: Unanswered Questions” (pdf), January 9, 2007.

“Catching Terrorists: The British System versus the U.S. System” was the subject of a September 14, 2006 hearing of a Senate Appropriations Committee subcommittee hearing.

NRO Budget Book for FY 2006 (Redacted)

A redacted version of the National Reconnaissance Office Congressional Budget Justification Book for Fiscal Year 2006 was released to the Federation of American Scientists last week in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and in compliance with a court order. The more intelligible portions of the document are now posted here (pdf).

Jargon-heavy and formulaic, the redacted volume will nevertheless be of interest to close students of the NRO.

“The NRO develops and operates unique and innovative space reconnaissance systems and conducts intelligence related activities essential for U.S. national security.”

DoD Doctrine on Recovering Captured Military Personnel

The recovery of American personnel who are lost or captured in the course of military operations abroad is the subject of a new Department of Defense doctrinal publication (pdf).

“The President of the United States can choose to exercise military, diplomatic, or civil options, or a combination thereof, to recover isolated personnel” and each of these options has been utilized over the past two decades, the report notes.

The practices and procedures for locating missing personnel and for planning and executing their recovery are discussed. See “Personnel Recovery,” Joint Publication 3-50, January 5, 2007 (283 pages, 2.5 MB PDF).

More from CRS

Some recent products of the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News and not readily available in the public domain include the following (all pdf).

“Maritime Security: Potential Terrorist Attacks and Protection Priorities,” January 9, 2007.

“The Protection of Classified Information: The Legal Framework,” updated December 21, 2006.

“Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004: ‘Lone Wolf’ Amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” updated December 19, 2006.