WASHINGTON – Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems (CITI) delivered the following opening statements at a subcommittee hearing on information warfare:
Rep. Stefanik remarks as prepared for delivery:
Information warfare is one of the least understood missions at the Department of Defense, but one of the most consequential, especially in the 21st century information age. From large-scale conventional conflicts of the past, to the modern gray-zone conflicts of today, information operations have been critical to shaping the operating environment and weakening our adversary’s strategic position. Eroding the resilience of our target adversaries while also winning hearts and minds remains the ultimate objective of information operations.
As former Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense, Robert R. Reilly said:
“Ultimate victory comes when the enemy speaks your language and embraces your idea of the right...”
Unfortunately, we know our adversaries are not embracing our ideas. Instead, China, Russia, Iran, and non-state actors alike, are weaponizing information to undermine the United States—employing asymmetric information capabilities rather than engaging us in traditional military means. Therefore, we must be prepared to not just resist information operations, but also project our own capabilities to exploit and shape the information environment.
Today’s information and media ecosystem is significantly different than the past, with exponential advancements in technology allowing words and ideas to spread faster and wider than ever before. In the last decade, we have seen how a short video, photo, or social media post can have a profound impact on the geopolitical landscape. Going forward, international competition, diplomacy, and military operations will be increasingly based on human-centric networks and patterns. Fortunately, our military and intelligence community recognize this, and both are adapting to this landscape and the information age in which we live.
Congress has given clear authorities to DoD to conduct information operations, and we expect the Department to use those authorities effectively. As such, we can no longer rely solely on our Special Operation Forces to conduct these operations. This must be a comprehensive approach by DoD, the Services, and combatant commands to ensure our messages are effective and achieving our objective to positively shape the operating environment.
Two years ago, Congress required the Department to conduct a review of its information operations strategy, however we are still awaiting this review and brief. This Subcommittee in particular, with jurisdiction over cyber and artificial intelligence, is uniquely suited to support the Department’s information operations. Yet, without the proper review and information from DoD, it is difficult to appropriately support this priority.
Congress also created the position of the Principal Information Operations Advisor so the Department would have a single person overseeing Military Information Support Operations (MISO) efforts. Unfortunately, this position was layered below the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, contrary to congressional intent. This position was not created as another bureaucratic layer, but as an agile single role with the mandate to guide each Service’s efforts. We must also act on recommendations from the AI Commission and invest in technologies to combat AI-enable information threats as well as increase coordination with the State Department’s Global Engagement Center to counter foreign propaganda targeted towards the United States.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on how DoD can organize information operations to be more coherent, nimble, and effective, and how the Department and the IC can work tougher to enhance MISO efforts. Likewise, we must continue to discuss the critical defensive roles DoD can play to protect the information environment as our adversaries continue to wage a persistent information war on our interests abroad, and our citizens here at home.