Advantages and Hazards of Embedding Media Elements with Forward Deploying Units Colorado Springs, Colorado September, 2012 Abstract War has evolved, as has the media and society’s demand for its updates. Operational security continues to remain a top combat priority however; we must not ignore the first amendment rights of the press. Our government exists for its people, and when we mobilize our military assets it is on the behalf of the people we need to ensure they are informed.
Thus, we must analyze and balance the hazards and advantages of the media’s involvement with ongoing military operations. Commanders Brief: Advantages and Hazards of Embedding Media Elements with Forward Deploying Units As we prepare for an impending military mobilization, we must decide the level to which the media will be embedded and have access to military updates. Members of the media desire to be able to send near real time reports and updates as the battle unfolds. Concurrently, unit commanders want to insure that operational security (OPSEC) is not compromised as a result.
Advantages of Media Inclusion The modern American is a creature dependent on immediate gratification in everything they do. Receiving news updates on operations that their military is conducting is no different. Several public opinion polls suggest that, by and large, the public was well satisfied with wartime coverage during the initial invasion of Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom (Kim, 2004). This was thanks to, in part, by the unprecedented access granted to reporters on the battlefield, as well as advances in communication technologies.
Increased media access has indeed helped insure the true story is being told. However there have been instances when the embedded reporters transmitted inaccurate information (PBS, 2003). Such information could be as minor as a slight miscalculation of enemy tanks destroyed in a battle, or as major as declaring a friendly fire casualty rather than enemy fire. Either way, it is imperative that we ensure the utmost accuracy with all reports being made. Another hazard is the reallocation of forces to ensure the safety of the reporters themselves as they are not combatants.
This can usually be quelled by ensuring an adequate safe distance from the frontline is adhered to. However, in the event that US forces find themselves outnumbered, or in a disadvantageous position, US personnel must then not only repel the enemy, but take extra measure to ensure the safety of the reporters. Such an instance could result in additional loss of life, equipment, or mission initiative. Then there is perhaps the greatest potential hazard of all: OPSEC. OPSEC is paramount for military success. It ensures the enemy doesn’t know our intentions, methods, or capabilities.
If the media is too loosely monitored, they could potentially release critical information. If mission details are made available to the enemy prior to or even during an operation, operational security has been compromised, and the mission may be jeopardized (Kim, 2004). Making a Compromise, Finding a Balance Ultimately, military operations are going to occur and the media will need to be present. In order to maintain mission integrity a balance must be found and compromises will need to be made. First, let’s address ensuring accurate reporting is taking place.
As all major military commands have public affairs officers and uniformed soldiers tasked with reporting themselves, it should be relatively painless to ensure all civilian reports are monitored for accuracy before being transmitted. This can also ensure OPSEC guidelines are being adhered to as well. We must also make it very clear that there may be times when military operations will require the media to not be allowed to transmit for indeterminate amounts of time. As for maintaining the physical security and safety of civilian media personnel, we should restrict their postings to larger units, battalion or greater.
Doing this will provide greater numbers of forces for security of the reporters without degrading combat effectiveness. Additionally, during times of intense combat, every effort should be made by the onsite commander to make sure the civilians are well clear of front lines. Conclusion As war and the military continue to evolve, so must the USG’s relationship with the media. The media must no longer be viewed as merely a burden and an unwanted distraction, but as another tool for the commander. Our military force is highly educated and professional.
Having accurate and timely media coverage of military operations will ensure that the world sees it. References Kim, J. J. (2004). Reporters on the Battlefield: The Embedded Press System in Historical Context. In Rand: National Security Division. Retrieved September 6, 2012, from http://www. rand. org/pubs/monographs/2004/RAND_MG200. pdf Pros and Cons of Embedded Journalism. (2003, March 27). In PBS News Hour. Retrieved September 6, 2012, from http://www. pbs. org/newshour/extra/features/jan-june03/embed_3-27. html