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Joint Force Quarterly: Strategic Communication: Getting Back to Basics

Author: Michael G. Mullen
October 1, 2009


Admiral Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that credibility is the military's biggest problem and argues that most strategic communication problems are not communication problems at all; "They are policy and execution problems."

It is time for us to take a harder look at "strategic communication."

Frankly, I don't care for the term. We get too hung up on that word, strategic. If we've learned nothing else these past 8 years, it should be that the lines between strategic, operational, and tactical are blurred beyond distinction. This is particularly true in the world of communication, where videos and images plastered on the Web-or even the idea of their being so posted-can and often do drive national security decisionmaking.

But beyond the term itself, I believe we have walked away from the original intent. By organizing to it-creating whole structures around it-we have allowed strategic communication to become a thing instead of a process, an abstract thought instead of a way of thinking. It is now sadly something of a cottage industry.

We need to get back to basics, and we can start by not beating ourselves up.

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