We Ignore the Human Domain at Our Own Peril

“It is in the cognitive space where we must prevail.” — General Richard Clarke, commander, United States Special Operations Command, May 20, 2021

The current focus on influence and information campaigns as tools of great power competition raises questions about how well prepared the United States is to compete in “the human domain.” Coined in 2010 by retired Lieutenant General Charles Cleveland, then the commander of United States Special Operations Command – Central, the human domain unsurprisingly emphasizes humans—their beliefs, their networks, their values—as a center of gravity in modern, twenty-first-century nation-state competition. While competing for cognitive and social influence is as old as the history of military thought, the human domain has received renewed attention from scholars, policymakers, and operational communities. However, despite renewed interest, neither the Department of Defense nor the interagency are postured or organized for success in the human domain and the information environment. This article, therefore, offers a number of recommendations to enable DoD and the interagency to more effectively compete in multi-domain competition by focusing on the human domain.