By John J.
Kruzel, American Forces Press Service
D.C. — As Pentagon officials weigh the benefits and risks of
social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, they hope to
craft a policy that shores up security vulnerabilities without
requiring a ban.
the Marine Corps has clarified its guidelines on social networking,
and officials said they would consider the findings gleaned in the
Pentagon policy review due out in late September.
officials have said the policy review will attempt to balance the pros
of social networking — such as its value for recruiting, public
affairs and communication between troops and their families —
against the potential security risks they create, which include
violations of operations security, network vulnerability and bandwidth
if the Pentagon is leaning toward a policy that doesn’t require a
departmentwide ban, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman replied, "I
think certainly it is."
need to do this comprehensive review, determine what the
vulnerabilities are, match that against the benefits we receive from
being able to use these new tools and capabilities, and then try to
establish a policy that will accommodate all of that," Whitman
Secretary Robert M. Gates is slated to receive a report on the threats
and benefits of Web 2.0 tools before the end of the month, and a
departmentwide policy is due in late September. Both Gates and Navy
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have embraced
the new technologies.
Pentagon’s chief information officer is taking the lead on the
review, which was prompted by concerns raised at U.S. Strategic
Command (STRATCOM), officials said. STRATCOM is responsible for
overseeing the use of the "dot-mil" network.
many junior-ranking troops, YouTube, MySpace and Facebook are more
than mere diversions; they are the primary means through which young
servicemembers communicate with friends and families while on
deployments. They also represent avenues for recruiting efforts and
dialogue between commanders and military personnel and families,
it is a part of our society; it is pervasive," he said. "But
we also have to be mindful that we don’t do things that will impede
our ability to do our core missions here."
for maintaining operations security exists in cyberspace as it does in
other social arenas, Whitman said. He added that the military’s
operations security training regimen — which emphasizes practicing
security at the source — also translates to social networking.
I’m communicating over the Internet or I’m talking to somebody at
a local establishment socially," he said, "I should be
mindful of (operations security) and what I say, and whether or not it’s
going to compromise any aspect of a military operation."
the midst of underlying tension between social networking’s pros and
cons, the absence of a standing Defense Department policy has led to
differing interpretations of how to mitigate threats, Whitman said.
an unevenness in the way in which people have applied — locally —
policies associated with how they have assessed the threat," he
said. "And it reflects the tension that exists between wanting to
use these social networking tools and wanting to protect our networks.
think that tension … is important for us to resolve at a department
level so that commanders have some guidance when they’re looking at
how to use these tools, as well as how to protect the networks,"
departmentwide directives ban the use of social networking and other
Web 2.0 applications. But the Marine Corps’ block on social networks
underscores the unevenness Whitman described.
early 2007, the Corps has blocked Marines from accessing sites such as
Twitter, Facebook and YouTube through the Marine network. While
Marines at home and abroad may use the sites on nonmilitary networks,
only those with a waiver are exempted from the standing policy, Marine
Corps officials said.
now, the (Defense Department) has yet to come up with a policy on
this," said Ray Letteer, senior information assurance official
for the Marine Corps. "So we … are just maintaining what has
been the policy since 2007."
Marines have issued a statement clarifying the service’s policy on
social networking sites and spelling out guidelines for obtaining
waivers in cases where access to such social networks is essential for
a Marine’s military job.
the Defense Department strives to find the right balance in its
policy, the Corps also seeks to find harmony between security concerns
and the Web capabilities’ legitimate use.
want to balance that security to protect our Marines on the network
(and) at the same time start looking into using this new technology,
this exciting capability of communication," Letteer said,
"but do it in a way … where we move in smartly, carefully and
do it the right way the first time."
added that the Marines also will strive to balance the Defense
Department’s study results with its own social networking policy.
with all directives from the Department of Defense, we will have to
adapt and take a look at the impacts on this and be able to execute it
in a way that will meet with what the (Defense Department) wants us to
do," Letteer said, "and still, of course, meet our Marine