Information Warfare Needs ‘Whole-of-Society’ Approach

Information Warfare Needs ‘Whole-of-Society’ Approach

James Rubin speaks at AUSA Hot Topic event
Photo by: AUSA/Luc Dunn

The United States is struggling to outpace its global adversaries in the information domain, and a whole-of-society response is needed, the special envoy and coordinator of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center said July 2 at a Hot Topic event hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army. 

“In the information domain, our adversaries are devoting more attention [to gaining the information advantage], and we are not winning,” James Rubin said during a keynote address. “The information threat is not something that can be solved by even a whole-of-government response, it needs a whole-of-society response.”

Information warfare is not a new threat, Rubin said. America’s adversaries have been weaponizing information “for a long, long time,” he said.

“Russia has been doing disinformation … for hundreds of years,” he said. “The Chinese Communist Party is based on propaganda, … and they fund their operations with a level of seriousness far beyond the way we fund our information operations.”

Foreign information manipulation is a challenge at the strategic and tactical levels, Rubin said.

“Every day, I see you report about the ways in which our adversaries are trying to exploit modern technology, whether it’s artificial intelligence … or whether it’s through old-fashioned media, the Russians and the Chinese do this,” he said.

To get ahead, the U.S. military must proactively expose and disrupt disinformation by inoculating people against disinformation before it happens, Rubin said. “The long-term objective … is to attach a source to information, because that's the way we will be able to prevent Russia and China from … using the freedom of anonymity that the internet provides against us,” he said. “That's the purpose of exposure, so that they know who’s about to tell them something and … understand that they're about to be manipulated.”

Moving forward, the Army and the other services, along with State Department, will need to work together to build relationships, leverage placement and access and join forces with international partners and allies.

Though information threats to the U.S. remain “daunting,” achieving information advantage is not beyond the nation’s grasp, Rubin said.

“We’re going to have to use our technology, our smarts, … our commitment and our recognition at the highest levels of government [to address this] problem,” he said.