PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN’S EMPHASIS ON INFORMATION AND PSYCHOLOGICAL COMPONENTS IN NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY

Lieutenant Colonel Susan L. Gough in the paper “The Evolution of Strategic Influence” (2003) examined the evolution of how the U.S. Government and the Department of Defense have organized the conduct of strategic influence as an instrument of national power, from the Psychological Warfare Division of World War II, through the Psychological Strategy Board and Operations Coordinating Board of the early Cold War, through the Vietnam years to 2003. She pointed to Reagan’s national security strategy as an important tool of US policy.

Reagan’s initial national security strategy contained four basic components: diplomatic, economic, military and informational. This was the first time that information had been elevated from a supporting instrument to a top element of national strategy. This emphasis on information and the psychological component – on strategic influence – of national security strategy continued throughout his terms 1980 – 1988.

Three National Security Decision Directives (NSDDs) built the cornerstone of Reagan’s strategic influence policy: NSDD 45, signed 15 July 1982; NSDD 77, 14 January 1983; and NSDD 130, 6 March 1984.

NSDD 45 revitalized the U.S. international broadcasting program, declaring it an important instrument of national security policy. It directed quantum improvements in the quality and capabilities of US-controlled broadcasting stations, such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe Europe/Radio Liberty, and Radio in the American Sector of Berlin. The directive established Radio Marti, to garner and consolidate anti-Castro support in Cuba and among Cuban exiles in the U.S. Finally, NSDD 45 directed a study between the State Department and Department of Defense on closer integration and role of broadcasting facilities in crisis and war.

NSDD 77 established a Special Planning Group (SPG) under the National Security Council to strengthen the organization, planning and coordination of the various aspects of public diplomacy related to national security. Chaired by the President’s National Security Adviser, SPG members included the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Director, USIA, and the Assistant to the President for Communications, with other agencies invited as needed.

NSDD 77 also established four interagency standing committees that reported to the SPG: the Public Affairs Committee, the International Information Committee, the International Political Committee, and the International Broadcasting Committee. The latter committee had responsibility for planning and coordinating international broadcasting activities pursuant to NSDD 45.

While Reagan was generally pleased with the progress made under NSDDs 45 and 77, he did not feel that the departments had gone far enough, nor that they were maintaining focus. On 6 March 1984 he signed NSDD 130 to re-emphasize and clarify his policy on strategic influence.

NSDD 130 reiterated the importance of U.S. international information programs to national security, expanded Reagan’s policies set out in NSDDs 45 and 77, and directed “sustained commitment over time to improving the quality and effectiveness of U.S. international information efforts” – including improving the level of resources devoted to international information activities and their coordination with other elements of national power. Areas highlighted for improvement included designing products for different cultural target audiences, further enhancing international radio broadcasting, and reconstituting a program for disseminating books and other publications abroad. NSDD 130 directed studies into more effective use of international television broadcasting, including the new audio and videocassette technologies, and into how to utilize new communications technologies to penetrate closed societies. NSDD 130 also addressed functional and personnel requirements, including development of career tracks and education programs.

NSDD 130 also directed great changes and improvements for DoD. First, NSDD 130 directed the Department of Defense (DoD) to give a high priority to the revitalization and full integration of PSYOP in military operations and planning. Second, Reagan directed DoD to participate in overt PSYOP programs in peacetime. Third, he tasked the SPG to lead the development of coordinated interagency international information plans that included utilizing DoD capabilities. Fourth, NSDD 130 directed all departments and agencies to develop special procedures to ensure policy consistency and timeliness in international information programs during crisis and war.

When NSDD 130 was published, DoD undertook a major review and evaluation of military psyop capabilities. That review showed that DoD capabilities had significantly atrophied since the Vietnam War. Throughout DoD, PSYOP offices were re-established or improved. DoD created a PSYOP directorate, the first such office on the staff in over 20 years. JCS upgraded its PSYOP staff element from a branch to a division. The Department of the Army Staff upgraded its PSYOP staff element from a one-man shop to a PSYOP and Civil Affairs division.

Both Active and Reserve PSYOP units experienced growth in personnel, more funding for training, exercises and operations, and received updated equipment.

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