Army needs Social Media help…from civilians?

June 9, 2011

Today, there was a great article in Wired.  It was about the Army’s proposal to hire Social Media experts for Afghanistan operations.  This was not a Wikileak; it is a real request for proposal for civilian public relations experts.  (The request is also for well-qualified Dari and Pashtu speakers to participate in the Social Media mission–thumbs up to getting strong linguist for this program.)

I guess I shouldn’t be totally surprised.

Heck, you can read about the Department of Defense spending $384.4 million on Strategic Communications in 2011 or about the billion plus spent on Information Operations for the past few years in a report by the Center for International Media Assistance.  For those keeping score…$384.4 million is enough dough to pay tuition for 50,000 high school graduates to attend college this fall.  The Politico reported that the DOD actually requested $988 million for communications funding for 2010…it didn’t pass.

The reason why this Afghanistan Social Media decision pains me so much is because the minimum qualifications that the Army is looking for–bachelor’s degree and Secret security clearance— is equal or even less than the qualifications of the 150+ public affairs officers we have on active duty.  And of those public affairs officers, several of them have earned Army-funded graduate degrees from top schools like Georgetown the official grad school for Army public affairs officers, UNC-Chapel Hill, Middle Tennessee State, and USC’s Annenberg School. And we even send officers and sergeants to work at Google each year.

Are none of them good enough to run a Social Media program in Afghanistan?  Heck, who’s running these seemingly successful sites right now?  See them here, here, and here.

If you’re still reading this post you’ve probably come to conclusion that I’m courageous or crazy…perhaps both.

Don’t get me wrong here, I agree there is a great need for continued investment in online communications and engaging audiences domestic and international through Social Media. I just think this should be done by training people already in uniform to accomplish these goals.  Really, by the time most photos, tweets, and blog posts are approved by the layers of strategic communications folks at big headquarters in Kabul, Baghdad, Kandahar, it’s a bit too late or too far removed from much of the populace we are trying to influence–many of them are illiterate or don’t have access to the internet.  Meanwhile, the terrorists and Taliban types are able to cause mayhem and make it go viral because they post from the point of origin–often on mobile phones.Soldiers online

I propose the Army purchases smart phones and commercial internet for their public affairs staffs at the brigade combat team level and arm them with the same communications tools as the terrorists.

Last time I checked, a 3G iPhone runs about $200 $49.  If you bought one for every 100 troops in Afghanistan (about one per company-sized unit), the total costs would be about $200,000  $49,000 + usage plans.  The troops already know how to use smart phones & Facebook.  After developing a policy for what to post and battle drills for when to post, I assure you a positive and tangible impact will be made in our information war.

Where there’s no cell coverage…use a Bgan antenna.

Ideally, we’d shift to training more Afghan journalists so they can tell the story of their country and of their security forces through their own lens.  Developing skills for local reporters should be long-term goal.

Well, I’ve said my $0.02.  I’m not critical of the mission, just the method.  I believe we have people, Soldiers & Department of the Army Civilians, who are ready, willing, and able to accomplish the communications goals for the Afghan War.  As an added bonus, after Army folks complete this task they will retain the experience for future operations.  Seems like a cent-sible solution to me.

Honest two-way communication is the best to build relationships and influence people.  I believe in the Defense Information School’s motto:  Strength through Truth

I figure I can’t get fired for this post, however, I might just get orders to Afghanistan. I’m ok with that.

DISCLAIMER:  Views expressed here are the authors own and not necessarily the views of the Army or Department of Defense. Nor is the post an official statement of the U.S. Army.  Just one guys opinion.


11 impacts of the 2010 mid-term elections

November 8, 2010

Just my hunches…No particular sequence…impacts of many of these will take effect years from now…

1.)  The dominance of the GOP in state legislature elections will have a significant impact on redrawing congressional districts based on the 2010 Census.  Expect less southern democrats as a result.  Gerrymander will become a household word.

“In gerrymandered election districts, the voters don’t choose their politicians – the politicians choose their voters!”

2.)  When democrats re-take the house, whenever that occurs, there will be an unprecedented number of CBC members as committee chairs.

3.)  The 2010 re-election map for President Obama will focus on the Western State Strategy plus Pennsylvania/Virginia/North Carolina.  The groundwork for this was laid with the 2008 DNC Convention in Denver.  The fight for 270 will rely less and less on the tired narratives of Ohio and Florida.

4.)  Perhaps Stephanie Cutter or Karen Finney will become WH Press Secy.???

5.)  The U.S. will take a more isolationist approach to foreign policy.  Wars and foreign aid cost lots of money.  Tougher to justify during economic hardship in the U.S.  Also, xenophobic rancor seems to be more acceptable than ever.

6.)  Entitlements reform will result in raising the Social Security Age.  Though this probably won’t take effect until 2030.

7.)  There will be more incentives for nuclear power plants; however, less federal incentives for consumer purchase of hybrids and electric cars.

8.)  Political parvenus will continue to dominate the media.  The media will continue to fixate on two of the eight elements of news: conflict & oddity.

9.)  All types of federal appointments will continue to be blocked.

10.)  Spanish-speaking media will become more and more important for federal elections.

11.)  Despite the nearly 14,000 murders annually of Americans by other mostly Christian, English speaking Americans, none of the leaders in Washington will make domestic crime prevention a major priority.  Not to mention the 20,000 plus killed by drunk drivers.  Sad.

***Like everything else on this blog…these views expressed are my own and not necessarily the positions of the DOD or Army…thanks for reading***


Things I might ask a politician

August 21, 2008

If I were allowed to really ask tough questions of a politician…I would ask:

“Sir/Ma’am: Each year American born, ‘Christian’ Americans murder over 14,000 American born, ‘Christian’ Americans…why isn’t crime prevention higher on the list of campaign issues? Why does your messaging not link education, healthcare, adequate housing to crime?”

“Sir/Ma’am: Most Americans don’t work in factories. But it seems that the pols constantly pander to ‘hard working factory workers’ in ad after ad. What about the other people who work in the service industries, education, technical fields, military, artists, and even unemployed?  Do they matter too?”

“Sir/Ma’am: Many people in cities don’t drive cars, or at least not very far. So why, oh why, don’t we ever discuss the need from more rail and mass transit? Do you think the special interests have bullied you into drilling for oil?”

Does anyone else wonder why the media doesn’t ask tough questions?  Do you think the upcoming debates will focus on policy or side-issues?


Race Card defined

August 1, 2008

In my opinion the Race Card is a statement by a  person–of any race–who directly uses race to do any of the following:

1.)  Explain their poor performance or reason they haven’t achieved something on race; instead of personal actions/responsibility

2.)  Accuse others of gaining a position as a result of their race, without any objective assessment of that persons talents and accomplishments

3.)  Those who play the Race Card typically play the “victim” mentality

***Typically the “Race Card” is used as a distraction from real issues.  e.g…the economy -or- upcoming court cases -or- Afghanistan

All this discussion about the Race Card makes me sick.  But, I decided to post this because the media is redefining the proper definition of the Race Card and I must battle back for fairness from my perch in the blogosphere.

Here are few real examples of the Race Card being played:

And another example of the Race Card (Listen closely at 2:40-Very closely at 4:10) and in text.

One more Race Card example for good measure by a Hollywood celebrity.

In contrast, this is just snark and not at all the race card–except as defined by the media who know that stories about conflict drive up ratings. Surprisingly someone else brought up the dollar bill idea months ago.

Your thoughts?  I know this is a minefield topic, however, it’s important that we look at things objectively and not just take the media “sound bite” version of things.

Does this constant debate on race help anybody?

In the words of Rodney King:  “Can’t we all just get along?”


WE THE MEDIA: Citizen Journalist photographs black squirrel in Georgetown

June 9, 2008

Black squirrel checks out the bike rack at the Georgetown library.We the Media by Dan Gillmore discusses how citizen journalist and bloggers are reducing the stranglehold corporate media has on how information is distributed in America.

Frugal people like me keep their cell phones far past the devices life-expectancy.  Then one day they just don’t work anymore.  Next we’re forced, by necessity, to upgrade to a new version–with new bells & whistles.  Frequently the new phone incorporates a camera and the ability to access the Internet.

One evening during the fall semester, I saw a black squirrel while walking to class.  I was near the intersection of 33rd and Prospect.  The squirrel darted out from behind a fence and stared at me.  Just as I unsheathed my Palm Centro phone, the camera-shy creature ran back behind the fence.

I told my story to a few classmates who’d never seen a black squirrel.  My tale of the black bushy-tailed rodent fell on deaf ears.  But, today, with this blog post, I’m vindicated.  Why?  Because, I’m a citizen journalist!  I also find it a bit odd that corporate media hasn’t reported on these creatures in over three years…hmmm…  He’s my first report…

(Washington, DC)  In a city normally known for it’s cuddly Panda bears at the national zoo, Georgetown residents have a rare creature of their own.  A common rodent with uncommon coloring:  the black squirrel.

While walking to the Georgetown University library, Majorman, a graduate student, spied the swarthy acorn eater near a bike rack.  Acting swiftly he approached the elusive beast and snapped a photo.

When asked for comment, Majorman says, “This was one of the most interesting sightings of my life.  It ranks right up there with the checkered patterned Praying Mantis I caught in Iraq.”  He added, “Unlike the Mantis capture, this time I had my camera.”

If you’ve seen any strange animals in your neighborhood or are a citizen journalist, please leave a comment.