Army backs down on Milblogs Posted by: McQ
on Thursday, May 03, 2007
I'm on my way to help liveblog the Milbloggers Conference tomorrow and have been following a story which surfaced yesterday in which the Army had all but shut down active duty military bloggers with a new regulation.
Today, after so much hell was raised, it appears the Army has rethought it's ban. The modified regulation from a source in Washington:
Army Operations Security: Soldier Blogging Unchanged
o America's Army respects every Soldier's First Amendment rights while also adhering to Operations Security (OPSEC) considerations to ensure their safety on the battlefield.
o Soldiers and Army family members agree that safety of our Soldiers are of utmost importance.
o Soldiers, Civilians, contractors and Family Members all play an integral role in maintaining Operations Security, just as in previous wars.
* In no way will every blog post/update a Soldier makes on his or her blog need to be monitored or first approved by an immediate supervisor and Operations Security (OPSEC) officer. After receiving guidance and awareness training from the appointed OPSEC officer, that Soldier blogger is entrusted to practice OPSEC when posting in a public forum.
* Army Regulation 350-1, "Operations Security," was updated April 17, 2007 - but the wording and policies on blogging remain the same from the July 2005 guidance first put out by the U.S. Army in Iraq for battlefield blogging. Since not every post/update in a public forum can be monitored, this regulation places trust in the Soldier, Civilian Employee, Family Member and contractor that they will use proper judgment to ensure OPSEC.
o Much of the information contained in the 2007 version of AR 530-1 already was included in the 2005 version of AR 530-1. For example, Soldiers have been required since 2005 to report to their immediate supervisor and OPSEC officer about their wishes to publish military-related content in public forums.
o Army Regulation 530-1 simply lays out measures to help ensure operations security issues are not published in public forums (i.e., blogs) by Army personnel.
* Soldiers do not have to seek permission from a supervisor to send personal E-mails. Personal E-mails are considered private communication. However, AR 530-1 does mention if someone later posts an E-mail in a public forum containing information sensitive to OPSEC considerations, an issue may then arise.
* Soldiers may also have a blog without needing to consult with their immediate supervisor and OPSEC officer if the following conditions are met:
1.The blog's topic is not military-related (i.e., Sgt. Doe publishes a blog about his favorite basketball team).
2.The Soldier doesn't represent or act on behalf of the Army in any way.
3.The Soldier doesn't use government equipment when on his or her personal blog.
* Army Family Members are not mandated by commanders to practice OPSEC. Commanders cannot order military Family Members to adhere to OPSEC. AR 530-1 simply says Family Members need to be aware of OPSEC to help safeguard potentially critical and sensitive information. This helps to ensure Soldiers' safety, technologies and present and future operations will not be compromised.
* Just as in 2005 and 2006, a Soldier should inform his or her OPSEC officer and immediate supervisor when establishing a blog for two primary reasons:
1. To provide the command situational awareness.
2. To allow the OPSEC officer an opportunity to explain to the Soldier matters to be aware of when posting military-related content in a public, global forum.
* Soldier who already has a military-related blog that has not yet consulted with his or her immediate supervisor and OPSEC officer should do so.
Everyone knows the importance of OPSEC, but the previous regulation was way overboard. In a war where it is critical that the voices of those actually engaged in the fight be heard and positive information find its way into the main stream, the Army's announced policy yesterday was both draconian and poorly thought out. What you see above is much more reasonable and workable and should actually improve OPSEC.
Well this is good for you McQ, a few more "Cheer Leaders in the Trenches" I guess to prop up the ludicrous idea that Iraq is anything but a failure. I, myself, prefer discussions based on my friends Vietnam experience(s) and discussions with Russian/Soviet Generals. Really blog’s from the field or from DoD are pretty useless, in that they generally support the war, and that’s just not helpful to to the cause of Iraqi stability.
This was bound to happen when the story hit the mainstream media. The N.Y. Times featured it in their e-mail edition this morning and I expect the fit hit the shan. It was a typical bureaucratic overreaction to a problem that did not exist. I’m glad I’m not the clown responsible for writing the doctrine.
The book Making the Corps, makes the point that the US Army is a much poorer "story" than the US Marine Corps. Why, because the Army seems terrified of "Bad" Press and simply will not be forthcoming with the Press, whereas the Marines always give a good interview. It’s an additive process, the Marines give good Press, so the Press treats the Marines well, relatively, so Marines don’t fear the Press, which makes them open to talking to the Press, and so on and so on....
The Army simply doesn’t or can’t bring itself to do that. According to many and from little I’ve seen the Army is very "tight" around the Press, viewing the Press as the enemy...or at least hostile, to the interviewee’s career if nothing else!
I think that carries over to ’blogs, too. The Army seems to fear losing control of it’s story and fears letting it’s troops tell their story(ies) for fear that somehow or some way it will be used against the Army.
The Army is like those Blacks who in the 1980’s didn’t want to talk about the break down of Black families, not airing the dirty laundry, because it would give ammunition to the likes of the CKlan. Her’s a new flash to both Blacks AND the Army, Tom Robb HATES you and so does the Nutroots posse. Whatever you say or do, to those people you will be wrong. And if you don’t talk openly and honestly, thinking to give your opponents no ammunition, they will FREELY MAKE STUFF UP ABOUT YOU! Does the Jesse MacBeth story ring any bells?
The Army needs to get its story out, any way it can...and blogs are one means of doing so. CNN and the MSM do have templates, liberal ones, and the Nutroots crew "knows" the war is illegal, immoral and fattening....If you rely on those folks to get your message out to the public, the resulting message(s) will be one of defeat and despair. It wasn’t the MSM that uncovered MacBeth, just as it wasn’t the MSM that broke the Rathergate story, and the Nutroots crew sure had no interest in discovering MacBeth was a poseur. And the troops in the field are one of the ways that the Army’s message gets out. Most of the stuff I’ve read from Iraq is positive, at least positive in that the troops are willing, literate, want to succeed, believe in their mission, and by-and-large love the Army. All that is in distinct contrast to the post-Vietnam template of the MSM and the Hayden-esque activism of the Nutroots folks. In short, if YOU don’t toot your own horn, don’t expect anyone else to toot it for you.
OPSEC is a legitimate concern of the Army and the units in the field. But it’s a legitimate concern of the TROOPS Too! I doubt anyone is interested in helping Hadji kill them and their friends....I think a better idea would be to talk to the troops and tell them the rule is that no one should be able to fill out a Size, Activity, Location, and Time (SALT) report from a ’blog entry. Be as specific as you want to about time, but then be fuzzy about WHERE things occurred and which UNITS, specifically, participated. As long as any entry and the Blog itself isn’t providing an enemy with a SALT report or derive an understanding of the TACTICS of the unit involved in the operations covered, then the reports are OK. "Just realize that Al-Masri is reading you and you don’t want to help him leave an IED with your name on it." That seems a much better approach to informing the public, whilst maintaining security.
In a war where it is critical that the voices of those actually engaged in the fight be heard and positive information find its way into the main stream, the Army’s announced policy yesterday was both draconian and poorly thought out.
(minor quibble) And negative, I suspect you’d agree, as long as it is honest.
None the less, it’s good to see that (my conjecture) the ignorance endemic within midlevel general staff, has been overturned.