According to a report from Politico, the Biden administration is considering keeping a Trump-era policy change that gave the military more authority to conduct psychological operations, known as psyops.
Sources told Politico that former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper quietly made the change in the final months of the Trump administration. The policy allows the military to run psyops more quickly and with less input from the State Department.
Before Esper made the change, the military would have to get approval from multiple levels of the State Department, including from the top US diplomat stationed in the country where the psyop would be conducted.
An unnamed Pentagon official said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is now weighing whether to maintain the policy or change it. Now that the focus of the US military is so-called “great power” competition with Russia and China, information warfare is a priority for the Pentagon.
US Special Operations Command recently launched a new information warfare task force in the Indo-Pacific to counter China. The Politico report said that in 2019, top US military commanders in the region urged senior Pentagon officials to find a way to speed the approval process for conducting operations against “Chinese misinformation.”