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Each branch of the U.S. military continues to try and see how it can embrace Web 2.0

The Pentagon is now using Web 2.0 services such as Facebook and Twitter to help relay the military's message while also tracking down possible recruits online.

"They live in the virtual world," Lt. Gen Benjamin Freakley recently said during an interview with the Associated Press.  "You could friend your recruiter, and then he could talk to your friends."

At a time when some Americans don't believe mass media in the United States is portraying the correct message about the mission in Iraq, officials such as Gen Raymond Odierno, top U.S. commander in Iraq, have a Facebook page used to highlight things soldiers are doing in the Middle East.

The U.S. Air Force currently has an official Twitter account -- with more than 3,300 followers -- it uses to share information about activities of the Air Force.  An official Facebook Air Force page has also been created, used to help share experiences and information of Airman deployed overseas.

The Marine Corps has dabbled with Web 2.0 experimentation, although it mainly has been for recruiting only.  Both the Navy and Coast Guard are experimenting how to work in the Web 2.0 world, with even the Coast Guard commandant updating his Facebook status while he travels.

The Army, along with its online presence, even opened up a gaming center in the Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia to help attract new recruits.  The Army Experience Center is a 14,500-square-foot location that has PCs, game consoles, and a virtual simulation machine.

As more possible recruits head online into the virtual world, expect each branch of the U.S. military to mimic their moves.  

Some companies and organizations have been wary to launch official Web 2.0 services, though allowing select executives and employees to handle work-related business online.  It's not uncommon to find both employees and executives from companies such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and others sharing information online.

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By subbob on 5/3/2009 6:33:54 PM , Rating: 5
Your headline overstates the penetration of new media throughout the Department of Defense. One definition of embrace is: "to take or receive gladly or eagerly; accept willingly"

I offer just a few examples providing a counter-point that these tools have not yet been "embraced" throughout the entirety of the organization:

U.S. Central Command maintains a Twitter feed @CENTCOMNEWS ( BUT the CENTCOM J3-IO & his staff can't access it from their desks. (The J3-IO is an Army Colonel responsible for integrating all aspects of Information Operations in the CENTCOM region.)

LTG Caldwell recently wrote about "The Challenge of Retaining Majors in Our Army" ( and encouraged all of the faculty at the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College to engage their students for comment. I shared his request with my current students, as well as those I've taught over the six years. Several of my former students could not access his blog from work, because their installations blocked it.

His email was unambiguous, stating "Would urge each of you to take some time with your staff groups and discuss the issue" and "Would appreciate your help in this important matter." Many outside the military may perceive that message as merely a request, but when the Commanding General urges participation and requests help it is more than that.

As another possible indicator of "institutional resistance" towards blogging, it appears many faculty members failed to engage their students as requested. An informal survey of students in my elective classes conducted last week, over 10 days after his post, indicated nearly two-thirds of them were never contacted to participate.

I received the following email from a senior Army staff officer:
Had a discussion with the Info Assurance folks today on the World-wide IO SVTC about their aversion to social networking sites. IPO [Army's Information Proponent Office] has recommended that the IO community get on facebook to coordinate. The IA position is a)we don't see why you need it b)you have AKO (that they admit is not interactive in the way that FaceBook, Linked-In or MySpace is) c)without knowing the value to our organizations, they have determined that the risk outweighs the benefits. I weighed in that those were stupid reasons, but no perceived impact.

Last weekend the annual Military Bloggers Conference ( was held in Arlington, VA. A highlight of the conference was the virtual appearance, via live VTC, of MG Michael L. Oates from Iraq. He maintains, including the interactive Mountain Sound Off blog. Despite that the conference was held in the DC area, MG Oates (appearing virtually from Iraq) was the ONLY( 1 ) active-duty general officer to make an appearance.

( 1 ) If there were any others present, they were not in uniform and did not make their presence known.

GovLoop ( is quickly becoming the portal of choice as a social network connecting the government community. I am unaware of any official endorsement by the Joint Chiefs of Staff or OSD to encourage collaboration on GovLoop. Until such an official statement or position is issued, only a very small percentage of people will use it. Most are risk adverse and unwilling to to engage in activities not explicitly permitted.

I believe we are moving in the right direction, but at a glacially slow pace. Much of the media has focused on the trailblazers (Army: GEN Odierno, LTG Caldwell MG Oates; Navy: Admiral Stavridis; Coast Guard: Admiral Allen, etc.) leading the way in use of new media tools. The articles also point to the popularity, acceptance and wide-spread use of new media by younger Soldiers, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines. However, the authors fail to recognize, or at least fail to write about, the large hurdle of institutional rigidity existing between the trailblazers and the entry level troops.

This is significant because, without some higher order guidance and directives, these programs are at the whim of individual personalities. For example, in time LTG Caldwell will transfer from the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth. Unless his replacement has the same drive and motiviation towards strategic communication, the programs he put in place will wither and die, for there's no shortage of "unbelievers" waiting to feed his directives into the nearest shredder upon his departure!

Other References and Examples

Military Blocks Its Own ‘YouTube’ Knockoff

Follow-up Coverage of Milbloggers Conference 2009

Collaboration Tools - Embracing Technology

Social Media and Perception Management Challenges

General Caldwell Creates an Army of Social Media Warriors

Admiral Thad Allen - Leadership by Example on the Social Web

P.S. I'm not closing with any mundane statement about this being my own opinion and all that nonsense. If that upsets anyone reading this, you're one of the people that " don't get it, and never will " about the new era of communications we've entered. Get over it!

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive
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