Information Operations

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Information operations and warfare, also known as influence operations, includes the collection of tactical information about an adversary as well as the dissemination of propaganda in pursuit of a competitive advantage over an opponent. RAND research has enabled military leaders and policymakers to develop strategies and policy frameworks to address the challenges of these military operations.

  • Estonia's Defence League volunteer soldiers attend training drill near Rabasaare, Estonia, September 12, 2015, photo by Ints Kalnins/Reuters

    Report

    Unconventional Options for the Defense of the Baltic States

    Feb 5, 2016

    Unconventional options from the Swiss defense strategy during the Cold War could benefit Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. These include training and equipping local defense units and preparing transportation infrastructure for demolition to prevent an invasion.

  • U.S. Army colonel leads an investigation team to meet with villagers in Tagab, Afghanistan, January 27, 2009, photo by Lt. Cmdr. John Gay/U.S. Navy

    Report

    An Update on Information Operations in Afghanistan

    Aug 28, 2015

    As the United States looks to further reduce its military footprint in Afghanistan, the need for harmonized information operations doctrine that supports effective operations in the field — as well as the measures with which to gauge their effectiveness — is even greater.

Explore Information Operations

  • Destroyed buildings during sunset at the frontline in Raqqa, Syria, October 6, 2017

    Commentary

    Defeating the ISIS Nostalgia Narrative

    It is crucial that the United States and its coalition partners take into consideration and preempt the ISIS nostalgia narratives that may seek to define the group's legacy and prepare a foundation for its resurgence throughout the Middle East and beyond. The legacy ISIS should be remembered for is one of misery and despair.

    Apr 19, 2018

  • Birds silhouetted over the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol at sunrise in Washington, D.C., November 8, 2016

    Commentary

    Political Warfare Is Back with a Vengeance

    The United States' principal adversaries are fighting and gaining ground by employing a host of tactics short of all-out war. This form of warfare, once called political warfare, is back with a vengeance, empowered by new tools and techniques.

    Apr 13, 2018

  • News Release

    RAND Identifies New Strategies for Countering Russian Social Media Influence in Eastern Europe

    Russia is waging a social media campaign in the Baltics, Ukraine and nearby states to sow dissent against neighboring governments, as well as NATO and the European Union.

    Apr 12, 2018

  • A dark Russian sky with a binary code background

    Report

    How to Counter Russian Social Media Influence in Eastern Europe

    Russia uses social media in nearby states to sow dissent against neighboring governments and NATO. Options for countering the Kremlin's campaign include tracking and blocking propaganda more quickly and offering alternative content to help displace the Russian narrative.

    Apr 12, 2018

  • News Release

    RAND Study Examines Ways U.S. Can Better Counter Political Warfare

    The United States needs to improve the ways it combats adversaries adept at using political warfare tactics to achieve their goals and undermine U.S. interests and allies.

    Apr 5, 2018

  • Chess board made out of a world map

    Report

    Countering Modern Political Warfare

    Both state and nonstate actors—including Russia, Iran, and ISIS—practice political warfare in unique ways. How can the United States, along with its allies and partners, respond to or engage in this type of conflict to protect U.S. interests?

    Apr 5, 2018

  • People walk next to an election campaign poster of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Stavropol, Russia, March 14, 2018

    Commentary

    Putin's Boasting About Nuclear Weapons Won't Help Him in the Russian Election

    In a March 1 address to the nation, Russian President Vladimir Putin evoked Soviet-era exaggeration, proclaiming barely feasible economic and social goals and boasting of nuclear arms that are unlikely to change the strategic balance. Continued exaggeration could sap public confidence in the legitimacy of Russia's ruling system and leaders.

    Mar 15, 2018

  • Cyber grenade

    Commentary

    Getting Ready to Fight the Next (Cyber) War

    Nation-states and their proxies are regularly spying and attacking in cyberspace across national borders. Western societies that are being targeted should do three things: Be less vulnerable, be able to recognize and mitigate the impact of attacks faster, and be prepared to respond in kind to all levels of offense.

    Mar 3, 2018

  • Chinese New Year parade in Australia

    Commentary

    Beijing's Influence Operations Target Chinese Diaspora

    China's efforts to gain support in and control diaspora communities threaten to worsen inter-ethnic tensions, aggravate political and social polarization, and harm civil rights and freedoms of citizens in other countries. Such activities merit close attention by democratic governments seeking to counter China's influence operations.

    Mar 1, 2018

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with scientists, representing the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in Novosibirsk, Russia February 8, 2018

    Commentary

    Free Lunches for Adversaries

    When leaders take actions that are unpopular with wide audiences, propagandists have it easy. While Western leaders should not make propaganda potential the primary factor when weighing policy decisions, neither should they wholly disregard the opportunities that unpopular policies will offer adversaries.

    Feb 13, 2018

  • Composite of Chinese flag and abstract globalization concept

    Report

    How China Seeks to Wage Modern Warfare

    The People's Liberation Army's approach to training, organizing, and equipping for modern warfare over the past two decades has been influenced by systems thinking. It now characterizes modern warfare as a confrontation between opposing operational systems rather than merely opposing armies.

    Feb 1, 2018

  • Staff Sgt. Auguste Archer, 35th Communications Squadron cyber security technician, uses a program to monitor hacker attempts across the world

    Commentary

    Invisible Doomsday Machines: The Challenge of Clandestine Capabilities and Deterrence

    As the United States increasingly contemplates acquiring clandestine capabilities for deterrence and warfighting, it should consider rethinking its approach to managing these programs. A unified management approach would go a great distance toward meeting the challenges of these capabilities.

    Dec 15, 2017

  • Report

    The Creation of the PLA Strategic Support Force and Its Implications for Chinese Military Space Operations

    This report explores the missions and organization of China's Strategic Support Force, created in 2015 to develop and employ space capabilities, in particular launch and operation of satellites to provide C4ISR capabilities for joint operations.

    Nov 10, 2017

  • Supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah listen to him via a screen during a rally marking the 11th anniversary of the end of Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel, in Khiam, Lebanon, August 13, 2017

    Commentary

    How Hezbollah Came to Dominate Information Warfare

    Hezbollah's information warfare portfolio includes newspapers, social media outlets, television programming, and a major internet presence. Its websites reflect the group's diverse agenda and aim to be multi-generational in their approach, offering information about social services as well as a video game to engage youth.

    Sep 19, 2017

  • An Iraqi military HMMWV drives past an Islamic State sign in eastern Mosul after they captured it from IS

    Commentary

    The Islamic State May Be Failing, but Its Strategic Communications Legacy Is Here to Stay

    The Islamic State's caliphate is collapsing but its legacy will live on virtually because of its information operations. The scale of the menace presented by the group today pales in comparison to other global challenges, yet it manages to dominate and terrorize the public mind.

    Aug 17, 2017

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference after the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017

    Commentary

    Russian Information Warfare: A Reality That Needs a Response

    For the last three decades, Russia has exploited its growing capabilities in cyberspace to spy on, influence, and punish others. The West will continue to struggle to hold Moscow accountable, in part because international law falls far short of fully defining the rules or resolving conflicts.

    Jul 21, 2017

  • Report

    Cyber Power Potential of the Army's Reserve Component

    Describes the availability of personnel with cyber skills in the private sector and the number of Army reserve component soldiers available to support the Army's cyber mission needs.

    Jun 15, 2017

  • Global network and information connection

    Report

    Social Media Analysis Could Support Information Operations

    Social media analysis could provide a window into the perspectives and communications of adversaries and other key audiences. If DoD seeks to expand its capability in this area, it must navigate U.S. law, cultural norms, and other issues.

    Jun 14, 2017

  • Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer visits the Bemowo Piskie Training Area near Orzysz, Poland, where U.S., U.K., and Romanian soldiers support NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence, May 5, 2017

    Commentary

    NATO: Prepared for Countering Disinformation Operations in the Baltic States?

    NATO alliance countries deploying to the Baltics should prepare to deal with increasing levels of disinformation. An open and robust communication strategy could be crucial in tackling a sophisticated Russian disinformation campaign aimed at disrupting support for these deployments.

    Jun 7, 2017

  • Testimony

    Understanding Russian "Hybrid Warfare": And What Can Be Done About It: Addendum

    Document submitted May 5, 2017, as an addendum to testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on March 22, 2017.

    May 11, 2017