As gatekeepers of information for the U.S. Military, the credibility of military public affairs is vital to remain trustworthy in the eyes of the media and more importantly, the American people. If credibility is lost, the media may no longer look to military public affairs officials for accurate and timely information. Instead, they will search elsewhere, seeking to “climb the fence” instead of passing through the public affairs gate.
Maintaining this credibility is difficult because it is necessary to participate in deception during the course of the military public affairs personnel’s duties. To maintain these two seemingly conflicting policies (deception and credibility) warrants investigation, explanation, and discussion.
Since the United States Civil War and earlier, U.S. Armed Forces have used deception to outwit opponents, win battles and triumph in war. In the summer of 1862, the Confederate Army was able to deceive the Union Army into thinking they faced a much larger force than existed. The Confederates did this in part by planting disinformation in the Richmond, Va., newspaper and by shifting troops from one side of a line to the other.
Subsequently, the U.S. military continues a policy of deception through such things as psychological operations, targeting enemy forces, and withholding information to aid in secrecy of operations.
As gatekeepers of information, military public affairs must temper the conflict between providing a steady and reliable flow of information to the media while preserving military deception (as an active participant in that deception) and maintaining credibility.
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