Military to select firm for 'info ops' initiative in Iraq

BAGHDAD: The US military expects to hire a firm to provide "information operations" support in Iraq to counter insurgent misinformation tactics. The bids were due on Friday, August 22.

BAGHDAD: The US military expects to hire a firm to provide “information operations” support in Iraq to counter insurgent misinformation tactics. The bids were due on Friday, August 22.

Army public affairs officer Paul Boyce said the reason for the RFP is primarily the military's need to counter misinformation spread by hostile parties. Stopping rumors is a particular need for the Army, but finding out about those rumors is difficult if the language and culture of the area of operations is not well understood.

“We've had an insurgent population that has sought to kill our soldiers,” Boyce said. “By communicating with people in Iraq in as many ways possible what we're trying to do to help them, and what we're trying to do to prevent people from using these ruthless roadside bombs that blow up people in streets, in schools and mosques, we find that a very important thing.”

Work for the account involves a wide range of communications activities, including monitoring and analyzing Arabic and Western media; spokesperson training; and development and dissemination of TV, radio, newsprint, and Internet “information” products, according to the RFP, originally issued by the Department of the Army's Joint Contracting Command in late July.

The minimum amount for the one-year contract, with two, one-year options to renew, is set at $250,000, and the maximum amount is $300 million.

Boyce noted that while the US military has gone to considerable effort to train soldiers in Arabic languages and improve their understanding of local culture, development of that sort of knowledge takes so much time and effort, and the need is so great that contractors are simply needed to meet the demand.

“Oftentimes, outside contractors bring outside talents or abilities, or previous experiences that might not necessarily be readily available within the government,” Boyce said. “Or they can bring a dedicated resource to the task [that might] already be used elsewhere within the government.”

As described in a “statement of work,” provided by the department of Multi-National Force-Iraq called Strategic Communications Management Services, insurgents in Iraq have sought to discredit US and allied forces, as well as the Iraqi government, through various means, including psychological warfare, terrorism, murders, and other “asymmetric” means intended to counter the US allied forces' stronger military.

Public affairs executives speaking on background said the contract has elicited a lot of attention from Washington agencies because of its potential size, but that firms with previous experience working in dangerous, high-security environments like Iraq – such as Lincoln Group, The Rendon Group, and MPRI – would have an inside track on winning the bid.

“The reasons that Lincoln Group and The Rendon Group are shoo-ins is that they tend to be the companies that know how to get people into the country,” noted Don Meyer, cofounder of Rubin Meyer and a former communications strategist at the Department of Defense during the start of the Iraq war. “They have the security background and are willing to pay the insurance. Once you establish yourself as being able to do this, you tend to gain an advantage in bidding.”

Executives at several multinational agencies said that they were aware of the contract, but chose not to bid for it because of the security and logistical difficulties of placing staff in Iraq and protecting them, as well as the advantage enjoyed by firms experienced in developing proposals for this type of work.

Neither Lincoln Group nor The Rendon Group responded for comment by press time.

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