Bullet Wisdom

I am an Active Duty Officer in the US Army. I am a Husband, father, writer, hunter, gamer, and SOLDIER. This blog is a forum for my many hobbies as well as my random musings.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

New DoD Policy Embraces Social Media

Last week was pretty huge for me for two reasons. First, author Jim Butcher personally provided some tremendously helpful advice, and second, my manuscript made it to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. I was working on this week's post, a look at the Fort Hood Esquire article, but late in the week, the Department of Defense issued Directive-Type Memorandum (DTM) 09-026 - The DoD's policy for Responsible and Effective Use of Internet-based Capabilities.

For the last few years, the Army and other services faced a conundrum: How do you maintain operational security during a period of protracted conflict while dealing with the rapidly increasing popularity of social media. The policies that evolved from the problem were as inconsistent as they were perceived by the field to be unfair towards a young generation of service members who grew up with the expectation of free speech through social media.

It was difficult to watch senior leaders tweet and blog while Soldiers in the field were occasionally disciplined for doing nothing more than voicing their own opinion. Of course, this is the military, none of us are under the illusions that we service members have the same free speech rights as the rest of the civilian population. Nonetheless the perception of disparity was out there. Generals and Admirals Tweeted and Facebooked while Privates and Lieutenants were blocked from reaching the same sites.

The disparity needed to be address. The DoD recognized the disparity as well as the changing landscape of social media and its implications in the broader scheme. So, smart dudes gathered, panels conducted, and recommendations made. And after months of speculation, this last week the policy went public.

Basically, the new, unified policy allows access to social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs) while still authorizing commanders in the field to "defend against malicious activity” and to bar access to sites with pornography, gambling or hate-crime content. Commanders can also block access to social media sites, particularly YouTube, as necessary to protect a mission or protect sufficient bandwidth, but, and this is a big but, only on a temporary basis.

It's no secret that I stopped posting to my blog because my local command in Iraq was uncomfortable with my blogging while they restricted the content of their own Soldiers. I had no problem shutting things down in the name of fairness and good order and discipline, but privately, I didn't enjoy seeing higher institutions blog away while those of us in the field watched from behind a firewall of mistrust.

Like many other Milbloggers, I don't thing this is going to have a huge impact on the great scheme of things. Soldiers that want to blog and Facebook did it anyway. They simply used friends and family members to get out their message. If anything, this new policy is more of an assist to commanders in the field, who now have clear guidance from their higher how to handle social media.

The public should see this as a reminder that there is a small percentage of the population serving you with honor and pride, and while we defend your rights of free expression, we are not granted them ourselves. I'll get back to writing about writing next week.


Selestial said...

While I understand the need for security when forces are deployed, I hate (HATE) the idea that one of the most convenient means of communication right now wasn't available to the people serving our country. From my very limited understanding, phone service was spotty (not to mention expensive), and mail takes a long time. When stuff goes pear-shaped, soldiers' friends and families worry. It's absolutely ridiculous to me that they didn't have the option to get on to social media sites and let them all know en masse "Yes, I'm okay."

Thank you to the men and women who serve to protect our rights and freedom.

Angela Addams said...

I have never really considered the impact that social networking would have on professions that require censorship in order to protect national security issues.

Very interesting.

And congratulations on making into the next round of ABNA

Danni said...

I can certainly see the need for censorship in some regards, but I'm pleased to hear that they've come around. It's got to be difficult to defend rights that you are prevented from enjoying the freedom of. Thank you to you and all Americans who serve and have served to defend those rights.

Oh, and congrats on ABNA!

Diane Girard said...

Congrats on making it through the first round!

I'm not sure about the Canadian armed forces policy on the use of social media by troops who are on active service in places like Afghanistan. But given our government's tight hold on the release of certain other information, it's probably strict. However, as you have pointed out, there are always ways to get around the rules.

Angela Magee said...

Congrats on making the next round! And great post. I just found your blog and am enjoying it already.

Michelle said...

Congrats on making the next round on Amazon!

And, there's always been a separate set of rules for those that serve and those that don't. Just know that we appreciate you everyday - for all the things you give up.

We may not support every decision, but we support the men and women who serve.

Military lending said...

I think this is great how soldiers can now express themselves through social media. This is also a good way for them to keep in touch with their families and supporters of the men and women out there at war.