WASHINGTON ― The Marine Corps is about to release a document codifying “information” as a war-fighting function ― and that’s likely to have direct implications for how Marines are told to conduct themselves online.
As Russia and Ukraine wage a conflict in which misinformation and disinformation play a central role, top-echelon Marine leaders want troops and commanders to be clear on how information affects every part of war-fighting and decision-making.
After five years of development, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger is expected to sign the service’s eighth doctrinal publication, focused on information, this summer.
Designed as a four-chapter book, MCDP-8 will describe information as a dimension of the maneuver space, said Eric X. Chaner, a senior information strategy and policy analyst at Headquarters Marine Corps. While multiple aspects of training and operations are likely to be affected by this document, Marines’ online activities may get some of the earliest attention.
“Hyperconnectivity means our adversaries can scour the globe and find us, and find stories that fulfill their narrative frames,” Schaner told an audience Thursday at the Modern Day Marine exposition in Washington. “The [operational security] risk that Marines impose by engaging in social media, that is significant. And the converse is true as well; social media presence allows the opportunity for adversaries … to influence.”
Schaner confirmed to Marine Corps Times that working groups already had been tasked with “taking a fresh look” at how Marines use social media and how they operate personal electronic devices in field environments. Those issues, he said, would be examined separately and addressed with separate policy recommendations, if applicable. It’s not clear when the working groups are expected to share their findings or when any changes might be pushed to the fleet.
While the Marine Corps already has policies, as all the services do, governing social media activity and operational security, Schaner said the new doctrinal publication will draw attention to the ways units make information about their activities available, intentionally or inadvertently. That, he said, will be a consideration in commanders’ planning sessions and integrated into unit operations from the beginning, rather than as an afterthought.
In logistics, for example, he said, assured access to trusted information is vital for mission success. But logistics units can be leaky with information too, by virtue of their movements.
“Logistics operations themselves generate an incredible footprint and signature,” he said. “They must be very concerned about, What is it that we’re communicating about what we’re doing … how am I being seen, not just from the opsec perspective, but also from information projection.”
MCDP-8 also is expected to shine a light on how troops themselves are influenced by what information they’re exposed to.
A section on force resiliency will describe how Marines can resist being targeted by weaponized misinformation and disinformation. Aside from training and drills to prepare for these threats, Schaner said Marines may get a new course designed to help them discern good information from bad: a “media literacy training program.”
Another point of emphasis in the forthcoming document will be taking advantage of existing training events as a chance to develop narrative and take control over what a potential adversary, presumed to be observing at all times, sees and understands.
“There are no exercises in the information environment. And that’s because of hyperconnectivity,” Schaner said. “Planners should be thinking about every exercise as an opportunity to influence or to project.”
The new document comes on the heels of the Marine Corps’ establishment of the 17XX information maneuver occupational field in March, a move that creates a more structured career field for troops who have specialized training in information-focused specialties such as cyber warfare, electromagnetic spectrum operations and psychological operations.