Rumsfeld’s Roadmap to Propaganda National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 177

By: Kristin Adair, January 26, 2006

The Information Operations Roadmap, a 30 October 2003 document approved personally by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “provides the Department with a plan to advance the goal of information operations as a core military competency” and “stands as an another example of the Department’s commitment to transform our military capabilities to keep pace with emerging threats and to exploit new opportunities afforded by innovation and rapidly developing information technologies.” The plan was developed by an oversight panel led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Resource and Plans) and representatives from the Joint Staff, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Special Operations Command, among other organizations.

The Roadmap was personally approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The Roadmap presents as one of its key assumptions the importance of Psychological Operations (PSYOP), particularly in wartime: “Effectively communicating U.S. Government (USG) capabilities and intentions is an important means of combating the plans of our adversaries. The ability to rapidly disseminate persuasive information to diverse audiences in order to directly influence their decision-making is an increasingly powerful means of deterring aggression. Additionally, it undermines both senior leadership and popular support for employing terrorists or using weapons of mass destruction.” The military defines PSYOP generally as “planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence the emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.”

The Roadmap has been cited in the media several times (see James Bamford, “The Man Who Sold the War: Meet John Rendon, Bush’s general in the propaganda war,” Rolling Stone, November 17, 2005; Stephen J. Hedges, “Media use backfires on U.S.; Many ask if Pentagon altered information to make case for war,” Chicago Tribune, December 11, 2005.) [see references], but has not previously been released to the public. The document calls on DoD to enhance its capabilities in five key Information Operations (IO) areas: electronic warfare (EW), PSYOP, Operations Security (OPSEC), military deception and computer network operations (CNO).

In light of recent media coverage of alleged propaganda activities by the military in Iraq, the Roadmap gives as one of its recommendations the need to “Clarify Lanes in the Road for PSYOP, Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy.” The U.S. government is legally prohibited from conflating these operations by targeting PSYOP activities–intended for foreign audiences–at the American public. 22 U.S.C. § 1461 (Smith-Mundt Act), which created the United States Information Agency (USIA) in 1948, directs that information about the United States and its policies intended for foreign audiences “shall not be disseminated within the United States, its territories, or possessions.” Amendments to the Smith-Mundt Act in 1972 and 1998 further clarified the legal obligations of the government’s public diplomacy apparatus and several presidential directives, including Reagan’s NSD-77 in 1983, Clinton’s PDD-68 in 1999, and Bush’s NSPD-16 in July 2002 (the latter two still classified), have set up specific structures and procedures, as well as further legal restrictions, regarding U.S. public diplomacy and information operations.

President Clinton’s secret Presidential Decision Directive (PDD-68), issued on April 30, 1999, expanded public diplomacy and public affairs operations beyond USIA and the Department of State to include all agencies and set out the objective of IPI “to synchronize the informational objectives, themes and messages that will be projected overseas . . . to prevent and mitigate crises and to influence foreign audiences in ways favorable to the achievement of U.S. foreign policy objectives.” (PDD-68 also cautioned against using the new information operations to influence the American public, but recognized the potential for “backwash” of IPI information to the United States and so called for coordinated domestic and foreign public affairs operations to synchronize foreign policy messages.

The newly-released Information Operations Roadmap, with the goal of expansion and central coordination of Pentagon PSYOP and public diplomacy operations, also recognizes the legal conundrum presented by the use of overseas propaganda in the information age. But while the document recognizes the need for boundaries-referred to as “[l]anes”-between U.S. public diplomacy and foreign propaganda, it fails to provide any such limits:

“The likelihood that PSYOP messages will be replayed to a much broader audience, including the American public, requires that specific boundaries be established for PSYOP. In particular:

The discussion of the relationship between public diplomacy and IO neither cites the applicable legal restrictions nor institutes specific guidelines, but references only the “intent” of the U.S. government in “targeting” either foreign or domestic audiences:

By means of recommendations for enhancing PSYOP capabilities, the oversight panel directed “improvements . . . to rapidly generate audience specific, commercial-quality products into denied areas” and a “focus on aggressive behavior modification at the operational and tactical level of war.” Additionally, the Roadmap cites improved military support to public diplomacy efforts and support for “active public affairs programs that influence foreign audiences” as vital components of the new IO strategy.

Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.

Document 1: Department of Defense, Information Operations Roadmap, October 30, 2003, Secret [Excised].
Source: Freedom of Information Act request

Document 2: Joint Publication 3-53, Doctrine for Joint Psychological Operations, September 5, 2003. Source:

Document 3: National Security Decision Directive NSDD-77, “Management of Public Diplomacy Relative to National Security,” January 14, 1983.
Source: Freedom of Information Act request.

Document 4: Reorganization Plan and Report, Submitted by President Clinton to the Congress on December 30, 1998, Pursuant to Section 1601 of the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, as Contained in Public Law 105-277. Source:

Document 5: Presidential Decision Directive PDD-68, “International Public Information (IPI), April 30, 1999 [Classified]. Source: Summary from Steven Aftergood, Federation of American Scientists,, citing IPI Core Group Charter, obtained by the Washington Times (Ben Barber, “Group Will Battle Propaganda Abroad,” Washington Times, 28 July 1999).

Document 6: National Security Presidential Directive NSPD-16, July 2002 [Classified]. Source: Summarized in Power Point presentation on Information Warfare, Florida International University, 2004,


James Bamford, “The Man Who Sold the War: Meet John Rendon, Bush’s general in the propaganda war,” Rolling Stone, November 17, 2005, available at

Stephen J. Hedges, “Media use backfires on U.S.; Many ask if Pentagon altered information to make case for war,” Chicago Tribune, December 11, 2005.

Col. Sam Gardiner (USAF, Ret.), “Truth from These Podia: Summary of a Study of Strategic Influence, Perception Management, Strategic Information Warfare and Strategic Psychological Operations in Gulf II,” October 8, 2003, also available at

Ltc. Susan L. Gough, “The Evolution of Strategic Influence, U.S. Army War College Strategy Research Project,” April 7, 2003, also available at

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