Detail of cover of DOD's July 2023 "Strategy for Operations in the Information Environment"

Detail of cover of DOD's July 2023 "Strategy for Operations in the Information Environment" Defense Department

Info threats demand a ‘cultural shift,’ new Pentagon strategy says

“The consistent integration of informational and physical power” must become “the norm.”

A new "strategy for operating in the information environment" outlines how the Pentagon plans to better collect, process, and share data to counteract adversaries’ weaponization of the internet and emerging technologies. 

DOD “must embrace a cultural shift wherein information is a foundational element of all military strategies and [operations, activities and investments], and where the consistent integration of informational and physical power becomes the norm,” says the document, distributed internally in July and released publicly on Friday. “This change ensures DOD’s capability to positively affect the drivers of human and automated system behaviors, shaping operational environments and reinforcing the strength and credibility of the United States."

An implementation plan for the strategy will be released later, officials said.

The shift reflects the increasing use of online platforms and emerging technologies by China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and others, which are “using their informational capabilities to deny information accessibility and propagate malign influence, misinformation, disinformation, propaganda and deception activities to influence and disrupt world order,” the document says.

Emerging technologies are “at the forefront of these efforts,” it says.

DOD’s new approach “will allow the department to refine its abilities to campaign in and through the information environment across all domains, in a global context, using the electromagnetic spectrum to enable achievement of enduring strategic outcomes,” the document says.

The strategy highlights “four lines of effort to enable the department to fully integrate and modernize operations in the information environment,” including new approaches to people and organizations; programs; policies and governance; and partnerships. 

In a July 5 letter accompanying the document, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the DOD will focus on “a renewed commitment to innovation, especially in the ways that the department acquires and employs cutting edge capabilities.”

A Nov. 17 Pentagon press release said the new strategy will also improve its ability “to plan, resource and apply informational power toward integrated deterrence, campaigning and building enduring advantage” — tenets, it noted, that align with the 2022 National Defense Strategy.

Congress and federal agencies have highlighted foreign malign influence operations in recent years, such as Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

A report released by the Government Accountability Office in January called for the Pentagon to do more to educate and train its leaders to navigate complex information environments.