The Pentagon rapid response operation was a public relations initiative by the United States Department of Defense to "quickly respond to news media stories critical of ... the Iraq War, as well as other stories the Defense Department leadership doesn't like."
An October 3, 2006 memo written by Dorrance Smith, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, obtained later by the Associated Press, described the team's role. The memo envisioned that the team would "'develop messages' for the 24-hour news cycle and 'correct the record'" in a way similar to political campaign operations, such as Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign. Smith also set forth four branches of the operation: "New Media" (for Web sites, podcasts, and YouTube); "Rapid Response" (for letters to the editor); "TV and Radio Booking" (for booking civilian and military guests on cable news and radio); and "Surrogates" (for "analysts who speak publicly, often on behalf of the Pentagon"). During the brief life of the "'rapid response cell," a "team of public affairs officers working behind closed doors ... churn[ed] out e-mail messages, press releases, opinion pieces and corrections to perceived inaccuracies or biased reporting worldwide."
The Pentagon rapid-response unit was a priority of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and some congressional Democrats criticized the initiative as excessively focused on Rumsfeld's personal reputation, rather than the reputation of the U.S. armed forces. Soon after being sworn in as secretary of defense in 2007, Rumsfeld's successor Robert Gates disbanded the unit.
- Pentagon military analyst program
- Propaganda in the United States
- Information warfare
- U.S. Military Television Network
- Pentagon boosts PR arsenal, CNN (October 31, 2006).
- Alfonso Serrano, Pentagon To Expand P.R. Operation, Associated Press (October 31, 2006).
- "Pentagon boosts 'media war' unit: The US defence department has set up a new unit to better promote its message across 24-hour rolling news outlets, and particularly on the internet". BBC News. October 31, 2006.
- Thom Shanker & Mark Mazzetti, New Defense Chief Eases Relations Rumsfeld Bruised, New York Times (March 12, 2007).
- David Martin on the Pentagon's 'Quick-Reaction Squad' CBS News, November 10, 2006