The use of information-related tools to support military operations and to help shape their outcome is discussed in a newly updated Army manual on what are now called “Inform and Influence Activities.”
Inform and influence activities (or IIA) refers to “the integration of designated information-related capabilities in order to synchronize themes, messages, and actions with operations to inform United States and global audiences, influence foreign audiences, and affect adversary and enemy decisionmaking.”
In some circumstances, the manual says, information operations can play a decisive role.
“Activities occurring in, through, or by means of the information environment have a consequential effect on an operational environment and can impact military operations and outcomes. Therefore, commanders and their staffs must understand their operational environments completely. This understanding includes the information environment and the potential impacts it can have on current and planned military operations.”
But the effectiveness of such activities is naturally limited by the realities of the military engagement.
“Soldiers’ actions powerfully influence the credibility of IIA. Visible actions coordinated with carefully chosen, credible words influence audiences more than uncoordinated or contradictory actions and words. All audiences–local and regional as well as adversary and enemy–compare the friendly force’s message with its actions. Consistency contributes to the success of friendly operations by building trust and credibility. Conversely, if actions and messages are inconsistent, friendly forces lose credibility. Loss of credibility makes land forces vulnerable to enemy and adversary information or countermessaging and places Army forces at a disadvantage.”
“Aligning information-related capabilities with the overall operation ensures that messages are consistent with the forces’ actions to amplify the credibility of those messages. It is paramount that inform and influence efforts complement not contradict. Failing to do so jeopardizes credibility.”
“The publication does not address every information-related capability commanders can use to help shape their complex operational environments. It should, however, generate introspection and provide just enough guidance to facilitate flexibility and innovative approaches for commanders to execute the art of command to inform and influence.”
See Inform and Influence Activities, U.S. Army Field Manual 3-13, January 2013.