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Defense / DEFENSE

Psychological Operations Get a New Name

To avoid the stigma of PSYOPs, the Pentagon opts for a rebranding.

photo of Marc Ambinder
December 6, 2010

The term "psychological operations" has a certain odor about it. It connotes deceit and manipulation -- even brainwashing. And in today's military, anything that smacks of the Pentagon's history of psychological warfare is not politically correct.

A few months ago, the U.S. Special Operations Command, which, by law, is the executive agency for psychological operations, or "PSYOPs," decided that a name change was in order: Operations aimed at influencing the emotions of people outside the United States would now be known as "Military Information Support Operations." 

When the name change was first proposed, it took a millisecond for the thousands of active psychological operations officers and noncommissioned officers to deride the new acronym. "MISO" -- like the Japanese soup. "MISO" -- followed by references that aren't appropriate for an online news site that might be seen by children. 


But up the chain of command it went, and as of late last week, it's official.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates put his signature on a memorandum officially changing the term. Marked "For Official Use Only," the memo notes that "PSYOPs" had become so toxic a term that commanders often failed to use vital tools at their disposal because of the negative connotations associated with the term. 

"Although PSYOP activities rely on truthful information, credibly conveyed, the term 'PSYOP' tends to connote propaganda, manipulation, brainwashing and deceit. As a result, a wide range of military-information related activities and capabilities have become tarnished by the term," Gates wrote.

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