Experimental Red Teaming to Support Integration of Information in Joint Operations
August 2021 No Comments
Author(s): Ackerman, G. (CART); Clifford, D. (CART); Wetzel, A. (CART); LaTourette, J. (CART); Peterson, H. (CART)
As part of the modeling and simulation phase of the IIJO effort, the Center for Advanced Red
Teaming (CART) worked closely with the ICONS Project at the University of Maryland to
employ two separate yet integrated human simulation approaches to test and build on the
findings of earlier components of the IIJO effort. The CART portion of the simulation
- Distilling 46 propositions from the Net Assessment and TTXs into 12 explorable
insights (EIs) regarding the competitive information environment.
- Testing these EIs in six scenario-based Red Team experiments using 223 U.S.-based
proxy participants from similar cultural backgrounds to actual adversary target
populations (Taiwan for the Asian context and several Southeast European countries
for the European region).
- Collecting data on several measures of messaging effectiveness and analyzing this
data to validate or shed new light on the EIs.
The experiments yielded a number of takeaways relevant to the IIJO project
The experiments yielded a number of takeaways relevant to the IIJO project.
- The United States begins with a reputational / perception advantage over its GPC
competitors, but the gap is fairly narrow between the U.S. and China in the
- Wherever it was tested (Scenarios 2, 4, and 5), there was robust evidence that GPC
adversary propaganda that seeks to cast the United States in a negative light is
effective in lowering attitudes towards the U.S., trust in the U.S. and U.S. influence
among targeted audiences in non-GPC states (in our experiments, Taiwan and the
states of southeastern Europe). Given that the perceptions of these audiences can
impact their own countries’ and others’ military and political support for the United
States, these findings confirm that IIJO is crucial and that the United States military
needs to place significant emphasis on OIE moving forward. Furthermore,
messaging to foreign populations (whether through traditional or new channels such
as social media) cannot be left out of operations.
- What countries do (as opposed to only what they say) matters. Hypocrisy by any
GPC state leads to negative perceptions among target audiences, but there is no
evidence that this harms the U.S. more than its GPC adversaries.
- There is some, although not robust, evidence to indicate that messaging regarding
U.S. economic success may not go as planned and could actually hurt foreign
perceptions of the United States, whereas the jury is still out on the effects of similar
messaging for other GPC states.
- The effectiveness of messaging regarding the economic shortcomings of GPC
adversaries like the PRC remains unclear.
- There is no experimental evidence to suggest that emphasizing U.S. values is
advantageous in its messaging and at least a possibility that doing so might
negatively affect perceptions about the U.S.
- Adopting a victimization narrative does not appear to be an effective messaging
strategy in OIE, and may in fact backfire, lowering the believability of the message
and perceptions of the country utilizing this approach.
- There is insufficient evidence to suggest that a non-U.S. government messenger
is preferable to a U.S. government messenger, but more research is required on this
- There was partial support (but only in one AOR) for the proposition that
uncrafted and untargeted messages are more effective in influencing perceptions
about the U.S., but further research is required to determined when this finding is
applicable and when it is not.
- With the possible exception of how much the message is believed and shared, there
was no experimental support for the notion that positive, proactive messages
are more effective than negative, reactive messages.
- There is some limited, provisional support for the proposition that adversary
messages that attack common values between the U.S. and the target
population will have a more powerful (negative) effect.
- The proposition that messaging that resonates with current beliefs and perceptions
of the target audience will have greater believability received no experimental
support. There were inconclusive findings as to the effects of more resonant
messaging on other measures of effectiveness, with contradictory findings in the
Asian and European samples.
- There is evidence that, in a crisis, it is better to send no message than to urge
allies to refrain from escalation.
- There can sometimes be unforeseen effects to OIE. For example, in some
experiments, messaging focused on one country actually affected perceptions of other
GPC states (including the state doing the messaging).
In addition to the substantive findings, at the programmatic level, the experiments
demonstrated how human simulation can be used to test emerging phenomena or novel
ideas that arise from the insights of experts and various other knowledge artifacts developed
during the course of a typical SMA study. By exposing these insights to realistic simulations
involving disinterested participants at scale, the use of an integrated human simulation
approach (experiments plus table-top exercises) can both validate previous findings and
reveal new dynamics in complex systems like the OIE.