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DoD Publishes a Common Sense Approach to Social Media

The long awaited Department of Defense Social Media policy was announced with much fanfare Friday and it is an incredibly well thought out common sense approach that has public affairs officers world wide rejoicing. It has been a long time coming for the evangelists of new media in the ranks who have been battling for access or trying to find allies to help them push into social media but this policy was worth
the wait.

I have been one of those evangelists myself for the last three years after the terrific team at the Army Web Team sold me hook, line and sinker on their efforts to tell the Army story on YouTube, Flickr and iReports. Eventually, their efforts grew to include Facebook, Twitter, Delicious and a host of other platforms but on any given day we would come to work and find our access cut off causing our IT department to spend the day furiously fighting to get us turned back on.

When Price Floyd, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, rolled out DTM 09-026 today, appropriately via his Twitter feed, it solved the agony of hundreds of communications professionals in all of the services around the world.

Its simplicity belies the power of the directive. It states that the “NIPRNET (the unclassified network) shall be configured to provide access to Internet-based capabilities across all DoD Components.”

With that single sentence the Marines are no longer blocked from social media sites which single-handedly killed all of their social media based outreach efforts last September. Army PAO’s will no longer have to find the latest version of the DISA memo to submit with their specific IP addresses and configurations for each and every social media page they wanted to use for official purposes. Memo’s that were routinely lost or arbitrarily denied.

Hopefully now a fuller regulation will follow and field manual’s that lay out the best practices and tactics, techniques and procedures that so many professionals have been learning through trial and error. My company is just finishing a study of military Facebook pages that shows the immense need for standardized content practices and rules as a staggering number of pages have little or no contact information, terms of use or clear identification as official pages anywhere to be found.

Congratulations to my former colleagues as they are now free to pursue all of the different channels available to tell their story to the American people, build stronger military communities, recruit future service members and connect with world.

(This post was originally published on my Posterous blog at http://fpwellman.posterous.com/dod-publishes-a-common-sense-approach-to-soci )

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Frederick P. Wellman

I agree that it sets a good example for everyone. Frankly, it will be interesting just to see this one once it hits the streets at unit level in the coming months. Many of us are concerned that there are enough loopholes in the policy still for local CIO’s/G6’s/DOIM’s to say “oh we don’t have the bandwidth or security systems to support this” and still deny access. But I feel like this is a great victory for open government believers.

Bob King

Like Frederick, I’ll remain skeptical until I see the results. Bans and restrictions (think “thumb drives”) are usually implemented immediately. Lessening restrictions usually occur slowly, at a near snail’s pace.

Frederick P. Wellman

It did hit me today that this policy reverses the “burden of proof” now in the social media space for DoD communicators. In the past I had to comprehensively proove I needed access and submit a flurry of paperwork to get authorization. By access being the default position it means in theory that those who would deny access have to now provide the reasons and hopefully a flurry of documents to support it. If you are a student of the obtuseness and inertia of bureaucracy like I am then you realize that all that extra work will discourage many of those doubters from bothering to fight it. Hopefully this creates an era where professional communicators don’t have to constantly prove they need these tools to do their work anymore.

Noel Dickover

Frederick, while I agree the communicators and recruiters will get a nice boost from this policy, the real intent was to get everyone else into the game as well. Everyone already agreed that communicators and recruiters needed access to these tools – what this policy did was recognize there are tons off mission related purposes for “internet-based capabilities” to be used as well. The real change from this policy, in addition to opening up the NIPRNET to access them, will be that mission oriented personnel can actively look to increase their span of control and situational awareness in ways they previously never considered.