In a major announcement by the DoD last Friday, the Deputy Secretary of Defense recently signed a new policy regarding the use of internet based capabilities. Recently members from around the blogosphere had a chance to speak with Mr. Price Floyd, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, in another installment of the DoD’s Bloggers Roundtable and hear first hand how these changes will affect the Armed Services and its’ members.
From his opening statement, it was clear the enthusiasm Mr. Floyd felt from opening up the Social Media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc to the men and women of the Armed Services and how it would benefit not only them, but their families/friends as well. In the hour long conference call, he outlined many of the benefits that such a move would offer, as well as acknowledged the hurdles that the DoD faced in educating and properly training it’s members as this policy is rolled out over the next six months.
But in the most simplistic form, this was a policy that has been long over due. The use of “new social media” has been a common way to communicate amongst friends and family as well as offer another avenue to “get the message out.” Mr. Floyd said”…I think we have work here to do at the Defense Department on culture. And using social media I think is as much a cultural issue as it is an education one. People who are coming into the military, they take all this for granted. They can’t imagine a world where one didn’t have access to these sort of sites.
For those of us who are a little longer in the tooth, and I’d put myself in there, this is something that’s fairly new. Only in the last couple years have we discovered this and found how useful it can be.
I think people at the most senior levels understand it as well. I think in the middle, we have some education, cultural shifting to do. And then that’s going to take a little time.
I think though people will find quickly as I did, when I started using it, the benefits to using this sort of communication tool. My ability to engage with audiences far and wide, people I have never and probably will never meet, is amazing because of these tools. And notice I said engage, not just communicate to but engage with, because that’s the promise and the actuality of this, the actual outcome of this kind of technology.”
But as Mr. Floyd initially encountered, I think many others in the military will have a hard time embracing this new policy out of the fear of the unknown. I think many of us take for granted being able to send emails, attach pictures, blog, tweet, etc. But how many people even know what a “tweet” is? Over the next six months, as this directive is rolled out, I am sure there will be a substantial amount of training and knowledge transfer amongst those that are web savvy to those that wish to learn how use this technology. Mr. Floyd also suggested that “As far as education, if you go to the dod.gov homepage, right now, at the bottom of — one of the — the main pictures on there is our social media site. And if you go to that site, you’ll find on there lots of short videos on how to use Twitter, Facebook appropriately, things to do and not to do, how to set up your own account, how — you know, how does OPSEC matter in these areas of communication. Everything you need to know is already there.”
One of the benefits of discussing a subject such as this amongst numerous ‘experts’ is helping identify issues that may not have originally be considered. One such example simple access of these social pages. “… this new policy was just signed Friday, so it’s going to take a little time for it to be promulgated amongst all the commands. … In other words, even if you did have a Facebook page, folks there couldn’t access it… which is a problem people here in the building have as well. Some people in the building can’t go to the DOD website, much less someone else’s… So it’s a challenge. We need to push this out there, and — this DTM. And I think one of the quicker ways to do it is amongst the CIO community, the chief of mission officer. And so — actually, because you raised it, I will call the CIO here after this call’s over and find out what she’s doing to push out this new DTM.” And just like that, a critical link was restored. Afterall, what good is having a tool if you do not have the access to use it.
I am greatly encouraged by this new DTM, if only from the simple fact that it will allow the men and women of our Armed Forces to better communicate with their loved ones. I look forward to seeing how this is rolled out.
I think that SMSgt Ellen Hatfield, Deputy Chief, Public Affairs for the 349th Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base summarized it best. “I’d say that although we realize there are some challenges with social media, such as operational security and protecting our cyber space, we also recognize how essential it is for our deployed Airmen to have contact with their families and friends back home.
What helps them maintain some level of normalcy while deployed is chatting with those they love about the routine and mundane in life — work, school, sports, what’s happening around town. Births, deaths, the circle of life, so to speak, is magnified when you are in an austere location, and have to stay focused on the fight, and watching each other’s backs.
Having that link and being able to share information via the social network on line helps our deployed Airmen to stay focused, and look forward to returning home. You learn quickly what your priorities are, and reach across the internet to keep a grasp on them.”
To learn more visit the DoD Social Media page, which includes lots of guidance. Also, if you would like to follow the progress of this directive, or have some suggestions for Mr. Price Floyd, check him out on Twitter and Facebook.