02 March 2009

Defensive Blogging

Not all Soldiers will be interested in maintaining their own blog. They can still play an important role in helping the Army in getting its message out correctly and completely. I refer to this idea as “defensive blogging”: peruse other blogs and leave comments to correct, complete, or amplify a point in a story written by others. Perhaps someone has written a post about an operation that the Soldier was involved in or about a recent change in Army policy that affects the Soldier. Posting comments on other blogs is a way to get the Soldiers opinions (and facts) out to a broader audience. This is particularly important if incorrect information is being posted and discussed in blogs. Military members have an obligation to set the record straight when incorrect information is posted publicly, and must do so in a transparent manner to avoid the appearance of the military trying to covertly impact public opinion.

The concept of defensive blogging is already being implemented at the combatant command level. CENTCOM does not maintain their own blog but they actively engage other blogs by leaving comments. The CENTCOM bloggers are required to be completely open about who they are and who they work for when leaving comments on a blog. This is a very reasonable requirement. According to reports about this operation, the comments they leave have been received favorably and part of that is due to their transparency.

Having a small organized team with the task of trudging through the blogosphere and correcting or completing stories about an organization seems a very valid and important use of resources. This should be considered by all major commands in the Army but it is probably not practical or necessary to have an organized team like this at the battalion or brigade level. At those levels the Army should empower Soldiers to perform the mission. This is, admittedly, a bit more risky because it is not controlled. This risk can be mitigated if Soldiers are provided with information, power, and trust. The Air Force recently published guidance in the form of a blog assessment flowchart for their PA officers to use. It is perfectly suited for individual Soldiers and could easily be included in any training provided as well as in published guidance.


  1. Soldiers are and have always been our credentials, spokespersons, subject matter experts, ambassadors, and the most trusted mouth piece for our service. Why should we act as if it is different on the web? Providing them basic guidance (stay in your lane, on the record, etc...) that we give them in media interaction training and letting them go seems a much smarter tactic than trying to restrict them. Many of the youngest troops already live in the new media world and expecting their lives as Soldiers to remain separate from their "online" persona is not only unrealistic but could be dangerous. Train and allow. Any other issues that might arise (wasted work time, OPSEC, inappropriate on-line activity, etc...) are leadership challenges that the more senior of us simply need to take on. The cost of doing nothing is certainly outweighed by benefits to gained.

  2. I agree, Yoshi187! Initially skeptical about new media use by Soldiers, I've come to believe that the best thing to do is accept the fact that engagement of blogs, social networks, etc is extremely commonplace and, therefore, decide how to equip them to be effective spokespersons for their unit and the Army.

    As we revise policies, determing ways to limit the "other issues" you mention is important for each comander to decide - and leaders to monitor.

    Thanks for your comments. Given your position as a PA, I'd like to hear more of what you think about the ideas floated here.