Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Studying War

The British military is recruiting philosophers, psychologists and theologians to research new methods of psychological warfare and behavioural manipulation.

Cambridge University was shortlisted by officials in the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), as it sought a partner to spend almost £70m in funding for a project known as the human and social sciences research capability (HSSRC), looking at how the arts, humanities and social sciences can shape military and security strategies, including “psychological operations.” DSTL listed “understanding and influencing human behaviour” among its list of research priorities, including through the “targeted manipulation of information” and “coordinated use of the full spectrum of national capabilities … including military, non-military, overt and covert”.

The university said it had since pulled out. Others in the running were Lancaster University – which also subsequently dropped out – and the arms companies BAE Systems and QinetiQ.

The military wants to develop “information activities and outreach, defence engagement and strategic communications” alongside military campaigns, as well as “communications and messaging [to] UK domestic and defence internal audiences that promote the attraction, health, welfare and resilience of our people (military and civilian)”. This research would include “the testing, refinement and validation of workable concepts, tools, techniques and methods to enable analysis of audiences to inform planning of appropriate activities, synchronised delivery of these activities [and] measurement of their effectiveness”, the document said.

For their HSSRC bid, Cambridge dons proposed a partnership with the national security consultancy Frazer-Nash to set up a research centre, initially within the university’s centre for research in the arts, social sciences and humanities (CRASSH). Within 12 months, it was to be spun out into an independent research facility within the university, called the Centre for Strategic Futures, “with the longer-term aim to explore the potential for this to be spun out as a profit-generating programme management consultancy”. Forming the partnership with Frazer-Nash, “which has the highest levels of security clearance”, would give Cambridge access to the defence industry, as well as the framework to handle “projects up to the security level of ‘secret’.” The documents suggested the university has existing relationships with the MoD, DSTL and Frazer-Nash, but the natures of these were not made clear.

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