milBook (securely) harnesses social media behind DOD firewalls

milBook Tool offers secured environment for classified collaboration

The military has launched a social networking tool called milBook to connect the Defense Department community behind the safety of DOD firewalls. Part of a larger milSuite that also includes a wiki and a blog, milBook is designed to foster open discussions in an internal environment for the classified crowd.

Government and industry have been working to configure a secured version of immensely popular social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. One of the biggest challenges has been to find a way to facilitate the open communications and transparency of social networking while still protecting networks necessary for military and government functions. To do so, the Army’s MilTech Solutions office is integrating security solutions across Army networks and communication platforms.

“We use a level of site authentication provided through the Army Knowledge Online/Defense Knowledge Online portal,” said Justin Filler, deputy director of the MilTech Solutions office. “We prefer to categorize our sites as professional networking rather than social, as the topics, information and relationships are based largely on professional similarities and common grounds, which are realized through the exploration of focus areas and work-related concentrations."

Still, the overarching need is the same: collaboration.

The concept of networking is consistent in both cultures and the overriding benefit is the ability of individuals in the DOD to reach beyond the barriers of cube walls and organizational lines to collaborate with individuals they may have never seen or met, who share similar goals, tasks, communities of interest and processes, he said.

The milBook application joins an enclave of other federal social networking platforms modeled on popular mainstream sites, including the Navy Office of General Counsel’s internal Facebook or the Defense Intelligence Agency’s A-Space, also inspired by Facebook.

As part of the milBook program, several military and government programs have implemented professionally-based and social Web presences for their internal communities, using popular or familiar sites in the public domain as a model, Filler said.

“We are actively engaged across the DOD with social media and Web 2.0 projects and are always looking to integrate where possible if the audience is appropriate,” he added.

According to Filler, no single person or organization is necessarily driving milBook’s establishment. “MilTech Solutions considers itself to be an incubation program for the development of Web 2.0 collaboration tools to be leveraged by the greater DOD. Our requirements are driven by an active user community across the services, although many of our core contributors are in the Army,” Filler said.

The milBook program could have broader implications in this realm of Gov 2.0, a hot topic of late that has been widely discussed within the Beltway and beyond.

“These new technology tools change the way people look at the organization, the way people look at information and how collaboration takes place,” Michael Piller, experiential learning manager of the Information Resources Management College at the National Defense University, said at the Open Government Innovations conference in Washington last July. “These tools are incredibly powerful.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.


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