Air Guard Supports Multinational Information Operations Experiment

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Chauncey Reed,
  • 188th Wing

Two members of the 188th Wing, in collaboration with the Office of Naval Research and the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, recently participated in the Multinational Information Operations Experiment held in Riga, Latvia.

“In the current information warfare landscape, effective collaboration with partners, such as MNIOE, ONR, and NAWCTSD, forges a robust framework for the integration of multiple disciplines concerned with the information environment,” said Capt. Sean Liggett, a 188th Wing intelligence officer and attendee. “These partnerships enhance decision advantages and strengthen our warfighters' capabilities."

MNIOE is a multinational effort that brings a range of countries including NATO allies and partners together to develop and ensure the ongoing evolution of military information operations in capability and function. The forum contributes to improved strategic communication capabilities within the Alliance, member nations, partners and other countries participating in the multinational force framework. More than 20 countries provided crucial perspectives on how they currently operate and seek to develop future capabilities, processes, and multi-agency networking across strategic communication, information operations, and psychological operation fields of effort.

The involvement of 188th Wing members highlights the commitment of U.S. Air National Guard units addressing and contributing to international efforts in cognitive defense strategies. The collaboration in Latvia was crucial for advancing discussions on countering adversarial influence and securing the cognitive dimension in operations.

“Our role is to provide actionable information, guiding non-kinetic military assessments with unwavering precision to assist with whole-of-government/society problem sets,” said Liggett. “Through seamless dissemination across domains, we synchronize responses that empower leaders with a comprehensive, real-time understanding of the Information Environment. This integrated approach is the linchpin, connecting intelligence, operations, governments, society, and overarching strategy, shaping the landscape of modern operations.”

MNIOE aimed to develop an outline concept for a multi-agency and multinational "war game" focused on utilizing the military planning discipline to support interagency community understanding and our capacity to recognize and build resilience to the threats of "below-the-threshold-of-conflict" malign influence scenarios and issues.

“Understanding the less obvious impacts in information operations is crucial,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Sarah Sherwood, ONR’s military deputy of Operational Mastery of the Information Environment (Project OMEN) and aerospace experimental psychologist. “The insights shared at MNIOE highlight how having a clear grasp of the information landscape is key. By truly understanding and assessing it, we have the power to navigate complexities that could potentially affect or mitigate armed conflict.”

As MNIOE works to refine planning concepts that support whole-of-government(s)/society(s) resilience building, they strive to enhance the capacity to detect, identify, mitigate, neutralize, and counter malign cognitive conflict efforts orchestrated by adversaries.

“A more resilient society that is well-informed about information they consume would ultimately reduce the impact of adversarial information operations effort,” said Sherwood.
The challenge at hand is significant, as adversaries target and seek to both undermine and isolate the capability of the NATO alliance and the multinational community through campaigns designed to malignly influence attitudes, decisions, and behaviors of individuals, groups, and societies.

Dr. Rebecca Goolsby attended as a representative of ONR and said, “MNIOE has a great track record in developing a principled science-driven approach to the problems of operations in the information environment. The Latvia event was especially informative. We heard about the real-world problems of information conflicts and participated in hands-on demonstrations that showed ways the initiative could address the problem of whole-of-society response to a cyber-attack. It was thought-provoking, productive, and inspired a great deal of discussion and new ideas about how to better understand the dynamics of information competition in the world today.”

The 2023 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. intelligence community underscores the significant operations conducted by U.S. and NATO adversaries within the communication environment. According to the report, adversaries are involved in systematic dissemination of disinformation through various media channels, social networks, and online platforms. These efforts aim to sow discord, undermine confidence in democratic institutions, and exploit existing societal divisions to meet the goal of shaping global narratives, suppressing dissent, and advancing their strategic interests. They leverage emerging technologies and exploit vulnerabilities in the communication ecosystem to amplify their influence and manipulate opinion on a global scale.

This is why MNIOE addressed strengthening multinational alliance decision-making, missions, and forces against cognitive attacks. Risks exist both directly and indirectly, posing a complex challenge to the military instrument, particularly below the threshold of armed conflict.

"The new technologies of large language models and other affordances of artificial intelligence enable adversaries to put out more content, over more online platforms than ever before," said Dr. Goolsby. "Disinformation, rumor, and social hysteria propagation can be distributed widely and more broadly, presenting a serious challenge for truthful information. Information competition has never been a more serious threat than it is now and going forward."

The outcome of the experiment is anticipated to shape future strategies in dealing with cognitive threats and enhancing both the alliance's and the multinational force’s resilience against emerging challenges in the information domain. As alliances and partnerships with shared values and principles, such as the NATO alliance and the multinational force framework continues evolving into current and future operating environments, initiatives like MNIOE serve as essential building blocks to fortify defenses against adversarial malign information operations.