Doctrine, Disinformation, and Strategic Communications.

Author:Handley, John
Position:E-book review

Doctrine, Disinformation, and Strategic Communications: How an Interagency Group Made a Major Difference by Fletcher R. Schoen and Christopher J. Lamb, Strategic Perspective #11, Institute for National Strategic Studies (NISS), Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, June 2012.* Free of charge and available at:

This excellent, albeit short, publication explains how a part-time interagency working group known as the Active Measures Working Group, established during the Reagan administration, effectively accomplished its mission. The administration tasked the group to respond to Soviet disinformation, which the group did by both exposing several Soviet covert operations and by successfully increasing the cost of disinformation to the USSR. Over time, the working group managed to change the perception of Soviet disinformation within the U.S. national security bureaucracy from that of basically inconsequential Soviet activity to one of a direct Soviet challenge to U.S. national interests. A two-fold working group goal involved both confronting Soviet disinformation and convincing the Kremlin "that such operations against the United States were counterproductive."

The efficiency of the working group can be demonstrated by the disproportionate impact of this relatively low-cost organization in successfully countering the massive efforts of a multibillion-dollar Soviet disinformation machine. The minimal costs of providing personnel as well as producing and disseminating the information significantly drove up the cost of Soviet countermeasures and helped, with a multitude of other Reagan administration measures, to drive the USSR towards bankruptcy.

Although successful, the working group fell far short of the standards normally expected of a "high performing" team. The members met only periodically and were not collocated. Initially under the control of a non-supportive Secretary of State, the administration, various departments, and other agencies contributed personnel to represent their specific vested interests and protect each contributor's home turf. The group members generally did not view themselves as decision makers but as information sharers and each individual's parent agency often pre-decided what information could be shared. When the Secretary of State unilaterally decided to stop the group's reports, Congress intervened and reassigned the mission...

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