U.S. Military Plans Polls And Focus Groups In Iraq

U.S. Military Plans Polls And Focus Groups In Iraq
October 12th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: U.S. Military Plans Polls And Focus Groups In Iraq

U.S. Military Plans Polls And Focus Groups In Iraq
Washington Post
October 12, 2008
Pg. 12

Helping Iraqis Rebuild Is a Goal
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post Staff Writer
The U.S. military is planning a large polling and focus-group operation in Iraq over the next three years to help "build robust and positive relations with the people of Iraq and to assist the Iraqi people in forming a new government," according to a proposal seeking private contractors for the program.
The $15 million-a-year initiative will supplement the military's $100 million-a-year strategic communications operation, which aims to produce content for Iraqi media that will "engage and inspire" the population. The proposed polling contract, which has yet to be awarded, would centralize activities currently conducted by four different commands within Multi-National Force-Iraq and the Psychological Operations and Information Operations task forces.
As with the media activity, the fact that the polls and focus groups are financed by the U.S. military may not be revealed to participants. One provision of the contract solicitation prohibits the contractor or its personnel from disclosing "any aspects of the work performed under this contract, including the identity of the sponsor," unless approved by the military.
The size and scope of the program "will provide an extraordinary amount of data," said a former government official with experience in polling who reviewed the work statement attached to the contract solicitation. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is employed by a company doing business with the government. Another former official noted that $15 million is far more than the State Department allocates annually for its polling activities worldwide.
The expansion of military involvement in such activities, which were once the province of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is raising concerns not only on Capitol Hill but also inside the Defense Department.
Last week, House and Senate conferees said in their report on the fiscal 2009 defense appropriations bill that the Pentagon's enormous resources are upsetting the "appropriate balance of the civilian and military instruments of national security," adding that neither Pentagon interests nor national interests "are well served by this institutional shift of responsibility . . . from U.S. civilian agencies to the military."
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has repeatedly called for Congress to provide additional funds to the State Department and USAID. Last month, during an appearance at the National Defense University, Gates said that until civilian agencies are able, the military "will probably end up carrying most of the burden" of reconstruction.
In a letter sent to Gates last week, Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked for suspension of the new Army contracts to produce print, radio and television news stories as well as entertainment programs in Iraq. "At a time when this country is facing such a grave economic crisis . . . it makes little sense for the Department of Defense to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars to propagandize the Iraqi people," he wrote.
Webb also requested that Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the armed services panel, hold hearings on the strategic communications program, first disclosed in The Washington Post, and the use of civilian contractors to support it.
The contract for polling and focus groups in Iraq requires a firm to maintain a corps of 300 trained Iraqi civilian collectors who live in different areas of the country. "The interviewers should have hands on, real world experience in this field," according to the statement of work attached to the solicitation.
The military has been conducting polling in Iraq for at least two years. In January 2006, Frederick W. Kagan, a military analyst at the American Enterprise Institute and one of the proponents of the troop buildup in Iraq, suggested in an article in the Armed Forces Journal that the military could use polling to determine the attitudes of the Sunni Arabs. "Extensive polling and careful evaluation of techniques and results could refine" the approach to the Sunnis, he wrote.
Among the tasks that will be carried out is a monthly public opinion poll of at least 12,000 adults in Iraq that proportionately covers all areas of the country. Recognizing the complicated security conditions, the proposal notes that the contractor must notify the military's representative about any area that is deemed "non-permissive" for the work.
Another proposed task, tied to the Psychological Operations Task Force, calls for a monthly survey of 8,700 Iraqis to determine the effectiveness of the campaign to counter improvised explosive devices. Anbar province is to be the subject of monthly polling to determine reaction to security operations there.
Up to 20 focus groups are to be conducted monthly in various parts of the country on topics such as security, governance, basic needs, essential services, rule of law and support of violent groups. The groups should have "at least 10 participants" and may span the general public or zero in on special populations "such as the internally displaced, Iraqi Security Forces or rural farmers," according to the proposal.
October 13th, 2008  
Cause focus groups solve any problem you've got.

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