“Joint public affairs has the critical task of advancing
consistent and credible information about U. S. joint forces to
the American public and our allies via the news media and military
journalist covering the operation,” (Joint Pub 3-61, p.
v). Military Joint Information Bureaus are a necessary entity
in Department of Defense (DoD) joint combat operations and are
tasked with performing the arduous duties as prescribed above.
With the growing number of civilian media representatives assigned
to DOD media pools these tasks become even more difficult. All
military services operate Joint Information Bureaus (JIB) under
the same doctrine – Joint Publication 3-61- however, each
branch has its own service-specific version of the publication.
Note: the U. S. Coast Guard falls under the Department of
the Navy during a world crisis.
“…the military services differ very little in the
execution of their information policies, especially when conducting
joint or combined operations and when the basic information is
driven from the top (R. S. Pritchard, 18, 2002). Differences in
each service’s adaptation of the Joint Publication, though
minor in some aspects, can affect how each operates within DOD
combat operations. These differences in retrospect can have an
impact on the credibility of the military with civilian media
during DOD combat operations. Keeping in mind operational security,
one branch may allow the media more access and information whereas
the others do not.
Most of the differences are not the interpretation of the doctrine,
but because it a “joint” outfit different terminology
and culture of the services tend to clash. For example, the Joint
Doctrine lists nine DoD Guidelines for Media Coverage in Joint
Operations. The Army’s versions reads: “News organizations
will make their best efforts to assign experienced journalists
to combat operations…”
The Department of the Navy’s version, which also covers
the Marine Corps, states: “News organizations should be
encouraged to assign experienced journalists to combat operations…”
They both have basically the same verbiage but are different nonetheless.
The Air Force on the other hand doesn’t list the guidelines
at all. Of particular interest, the guidelines for media coverage
in joint operations were developed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff
and members of the nation’s major news organizations and
adopted in April 1992 (Aukofer, Lawrence, 1995, p.20). After comparing
the services’ adaptation of the Joint Publication, it was
noted that there were some significant differences in each doctrine
The most significant was from the Air Force which suggested in
its doctrine the reader refers to the Joint Publication for more
information. The Navy noted another publication as well for the
public affairs professional to refer to for more detailed information.
The Army and Marine Corps are the same but differ in the last
two guidelines. The Marine Corps combined the last guideline with
another, but the Army dropped the last two altogether.
Our research indicated that policy differed among the services,
and these minor differences could influence how Joint Information
Bureaus operate/interact in a DOD Combined Operation (see Attachment
2). Note that the military services, in following the Joint Publication,
also have a list titled “Department of Defense National
Media Pool Support.” One of the support items on the list
stood out on the list and has been the center of case studies
between the military and media. The one support item reads:
“A free flow of general and military information shall
be made available, without censorship or propaganda, to the men
and women of the Armed Forces and their dependents.”
In researching the material to support this project there where
at least one or more references made about the Army delaying the
release of news stories they feared would generate adverse publicity,
which got the stories spiked by deadline-driven editors, but consequently
generated bad feelings between the Army and the press reporters
(Stech, 1994, p. 9). With regard to operational security, and
keeping in mind that all the services receive additional Public
Affairs Guidance from the Department of Defense, are these operational
differences significant enough to affect the Joint Information
Bureaus’ credibility with the media?
In order to address these issues, our studies indicated that a
comparison between the Joint Publication and the service-specific
doctrines needed to be conducted, since it appeared that the root
of the problem is not in the relationship between the military
and the media, but between the differences in operational doctrine.
It is significant to note that Joint Publication 3-61 states that
if there is a conflict with the public affairs policies, then
it overrides all others.