By Tisha Swart-Entwistle, Combined Arms Center Public AffairsMay 29, 2019
The Cultural and Area Studies Office hosted the "Leveraging Culture and Language in Influence Operations" panel discussion May 21, 2019 in the Lewis and Clark Center's Arnold Conference Room at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Panel members included Col. Gary Hausman, commandant of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center; George Dallas, director of the Marine Corps' Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning and Howard Ward, director of the Air Force Culture and Language Center, Air Force University.
In his introduction of the panel, CASO director Dr. Mahir Ibrahimov, said it is important to have an appreciation of the history, culture and proficiency in foreign languages of other regions to be "competitive in dealing with major global and regional adversaries."
Hausman began his remarks asking the audience to think about what the right level of language proficiency and cultural experience an individual needs to support influence operations. He said that DLI is not currently producing at the right level that is needed.
"But that is something that DLI is working through right now, how to graduate our linguists at a higher level," Hausman said.
Even though DLI focuses on language, Hausman said that the mission includes training the best military linguists from a cultural aspect. He said DLI accomplishes this by employing non-native English speakers who grew up abroad.
"When we think about the things in culture, values, beliefs, traditions, norms, rituals, taboos, etiquette, attire and time concepts and, how these elements often source expectations regarding behavior" Hausman said. "So, we are likewise trying to incorporate that into the classroom."
Dallas began his remarks by pointing out that his organization, CAOCL, has a different focus than Hausman and DLI.
"We are language familiarization people," Dallas said "What we're looking at is just giving enough skill to a Marine so they can build some basic rapport, we are certainly not trying to create a linguist… and our experience has shown that for the general purpose force, once you establish rapport, the bonds are built and it seems to work from there."
Dallas said that for the panel, Ibrahimov asked him to discuss how the Marine Corps views Language, Regional Expertise and Culture (LREC) in relation to information and influence operations.
"It's all about context," Dallas said. "It's the cultural context that makes our efforts within the information environment and within information operations either effective or less effective."
Dallas said the information environment is defined as consisting of three interrelated dimension, the physical dimension which includes tangible elements like infrastructure, the information dimension which is data-centric and the cognitive dimension.
Dallas focused his remarks on the cognitive dimension which, he said, encompasses the minds of those who act on information and includes their knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and perceptions.
"It is seen as the most important of the three," Dallas said.
For influence operations to achieve the desired effects, it is critical to understand the target and how they think.
"The bottom line is that LREC is a critical element to the effective and successful execution of any influence operations," Dallas said.
For the Air Force perspective, Ward began with a description of the Air Force by Gen. Hap Arnold that described the force as a global network with airmen having the skill to win the battle of influence with fellow airmen and civilian populations around the world. Ward said that description was still timely but that if Arnold could see the Air Force today he might be concerned because of the rate at which information and the world changes now.
"There's a real problem in the time between flash and bang on how we can develop airmen that can win the battle of influence when things are changing so quickly," Ward said.
To answer that problem, Ward said the Air Force Culture and Language Center has developed a learning model on leveraging the diversity in the force and finding skills that people bring with them and then developing them.
"The battle of influence isn't a coming fight," Ward said. "Everybody in this room knows that we are in it today."
For more information on the CASO program visit their website: https://usacac.army.mil/organizations/cace/lrec. To view the full recording of the panel use the following link to the video on the Command and General Staff College Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/USACGSC/videos/433584687430508/.