Paper urges DOD strategy for Web 2.0

The Defense Department needs to develop a strategy for using social-networking software to achieve its mission goals, according to an advance copy of a paper written by security researchers at the DOD-funded National Defense University (NDU).

The researchers examined how the U.S. government, its allies and potential enemies are using social media tools and concluded that DOD must be prepared to buy or build such tools and educate the department’s workforce on how to use them. The authors recommend that DOD develop a strategy that would guide social media software use for specific problems and make the organizational and cultural changes needed for information to flow more freely.

"Experimentation with social tools is educational and should be encouraged; however, experimentation alone is tantamount to tactics in search of a strategy," the report states. "As in the private sector, starting with a strategy for using social software that includes vision and planning will form a foundation for both downstream tactics and upstream organizational changes and cultural buy-in."

Mark Drapeau, an associate research fellow at NDU’s Center for Technology and National Security Policy, and Linton Wells, a distinguished research professor at the university, wrote the report.

The report represents the initial findings of research for DOD policy-makers that began in April 2008 and focused on tools such as blogs, micro-blogs and social-networking Web sites. The research is an effort to conduct an inventory of available social media technologies, identify impediments to DOD personnel using such software, engage with the private sector and advise senior DOD leaders.

The authors recounted many ways that social media tools have been used to influence public opinion and politics and support causes. They concluded that DOD should encourage the use of such tools. However, they also said that before pressing for widespread adoption, officials must address strategic, tactical and operational issues.

Drapeau and Wells said that because national security efforts increasingly expand beyond fighting wars to include peacekeeping, humanitarian efforts and reconstruction, a DOD strategy for incorporating social media tools into its missions should also benefit other government agencies.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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