There appears to be a greater acceptance of the "New Media" by the DoD. The Army recently unblocked social media sites from its servers and the Air Force is encouraging Airman to engage online. The combination of this recent guidance and my recent experiences with PME has provided the catalyst for the blog you are now reading.
The Air Force Public Affairs Agency, Emerging Technology Division, released "The New Media and the Air Force" instructional guidance in January of 2009. This guide mentions that "new technologies give Airmen the opportunity to horizontally inform the media, the public and each other" and highlights that "if the Air Force does not tell its own story, someone else will" (AFPAA, 1, 2009). It further states "progress is being made toward helping Airmen engage each other across the social media spectrum--with a higher goal of transparently reaching out to industry leaders, other agencies and the general public" (AFPAA, 2009, 4). In my opinion, this ability for Airman to engage each other shares a common stated goal of PME programs but has a greater potential for transparency and a wider discussion. Perhaps future PME courses will be open to the public allowing for a wider range of opinions and thoughts and allowing non-military personnel to challenge traditional military assumptions. The AFPAA's forward thinking instructional guidance leaves the door wide open and states, "the Air Force needs to turn all of its Airmen...into communicators..." (AFPAA, 2009, 5). The AFPAA discusses what the pamphlet is, and is not, on their website.
This may be just the type of policy needed to help fulfill the Secretary of Defense's vision. At a speech at Maxwell AFB at the Air University, Secretary Gates urged Air Force officers "to think innovatively and worry less about their careers than about adapting to a changing world," according to Robert Burns of the Oakland Tribune. Burns notes the Secretary later addressed West Point cadets and encouraged them to "take on the mantle of fearless, thoughtful but loyal dissent" when appropriate and was "impressed" that the service allowed a critique to be published by Lt. Col. Paul Yingling. Burns notes that Gates stated, "I believe this is a sign of institutional strength and vitality" (Burns, 2008).
The Air Force New Media guidelines includes a list of "Top 10 Tips for New Media" and coming in at number 9 is..."Don't be Afraid to Take Calculated Risks." The guide goes on to state, "military life often deals in ambiguity..." There is a common, strategic, and forward thinking theme here.
While researching prior to the creation of this blog I discovered the AFI 35-101 Public Affairs regulation published in 2005. The regulation does provide limitations on what Airmen can say. Specifically, section 2.14.1 states "each Air Force member or employee is responsible for obtaining the necessary review and clearance, starting with Public Affairs, before releasing any proposed statement, text or imagery to the public." This "catch all" regulation requires interpretation since the section above taken literally would mean that prior to talking to a group of people in a grocery store PA would first have to be consulted. Obviously common sense must be applied and the section above reflects that with the word "necessary." Some statements to the public do not necesitate review and clearance.
The 2009 Air Force discussion of New Media makes this clear regarding blogs stating, "Further guidance from Headquarters Air Force in the form of Roll Call states: 'You are not prohibited from using blogs or social network sites..." and then states information is restricted by classification and OPSEC concerns.
The forward thinking Air Force policy on new media stands to help the Air Force Chief of Staff in his goal to rebuild the credibility of the Air Force as more creative and less conventional discussions are fostered. In my opinion, this development shows vitality and strength isn't reserved for our Army brethren alone. Our system is working to heal itself under some progressive strategic-minded leadership and this new policy may just help the Chief in his pursuit to change an "above all" approach to a "for all" approach to warfighting (White, 2008).
White, Josh 'Stop the Slide,' Says New Air Force Chief; Schwartz is Blunt About Service's Failings The Washington Post, August 13, 2008.
Air Force Public Affairs Agency, Emerging Technology Division, New Media and the Air Force, January 2009.