Pentagon needs to take closer look at social networking, Gates says

DOD wants to be linked in to the world, but must be wary of compromising operational security

Top Defense Department officials, noting the importance social networking has played in detailing events surrounding Iran’s disputed elections, acknowledge that the Pentagon needs to take a closer look at social media technologies.

“This department, I think, is way behind the power curve in this; it's an area where I think we have a lot of room for improvement,” said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, speaking to reporters at a Pentagon news conference last week.


More on this topic from FCW:

DOD: Be wary of social media's 'loose lips'


“How do we communicate better with [young people]?” Gates asked. “How do we get reactions from them to things that we're doing? How do we get better plugged in with what they're thinking?”

The answer to those questions, in Gates’ view, is to harness social media to enable DOD reach out to the world.

“For leaders ... it's really important to be connected to [social networking tools] and understand it,” said Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noting that he has his own Facebook page. “I think communicating that way and moving information around that way—whether it's administrative information or information in warfare — is absolutely critical.”

While the lure of the social networking is increasing, the phenomenon is not without risk. Jack Kiesler, chief of cyber counterintelligence at the Defense Intelligence Agency, cited participation in online discussion groups or blogs by DOD employees or contractors as one avenue foreign intelligence services could use to single out disgruntled military or intelligence agency employees, who then could be recruited or blackmailed.

In addition, according to Kiesler, foreign agents seeking to steal stealth technology might start by trying to identify individuals—via social media profiles—who are working on the technology: figuring out whom they associate with, following their movements, looking for clues about new research and development and so on.

Kiesler noted that an "Intelligence Professionals" group exists today on the social media site LinkedIn.com, and that 163 LinkedIn members listed the Defense Intelligence Agency as their current employer.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1996, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

  • Shutterstock image.

    Merged IT modernization bill punts on funding

    A House panel approved a new IT modernization bill that appears poised to pass, but key funding questions are left for appropriators.

  • General Frost

    Army wants cyber capability everywhere

    The Army's cyber director said cyber, electronic warfare and information operations must be integrated into warfighters' doctrine and training.

  • Rising Star 2013

    Meet the 2016 Rising Stars

    FCW honors 30 early-career leaders in federal IT.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group