Military News

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New PTSD Program Answers Nee


LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, Germany - Symptoms of combat stress and post-traumatic stress disorder include continual nightmares, avoidance behaviors, denial, grief, anger and fear.

Some Soldiers, battling these and other symptoms, can be treated successfully as an outpatient while assuming their normal duties. For others, however, returning to work and becoming their old selves again were challenges recognized by several mental health professionals across the European theater.

"We were looking at how we can best meet the needs of our clientele, and we were identifying that a lot of the Soldiers needed more than once-a-week outpatient, individual therapy and probably needed more than once- or twice-a-week group therapy," said Joseph Pehm, chief of Medical Social Work at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

The solution came in the creation of an intensive eight-week therapeutic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Day Treatment Program called "evolution" that began in March 2009 at LRMC. During the eight-hour days, patients enrolled in the program participate in multiple disciplines and interests, including art therapy, yoga and meditation classes, substance abuse groups, anger and grief management, tobacco cessation, pain management and multiple PTSD evidence-based practice protocols.

"I am a great believer in the kitchen sink, meaning I throw everything, including the kitchen sink, and something will stick," said Dr. Daphne Brown, chief of the Division of Behavioral Health at LRMC. "And so we've come with all the evidence-based treatment for PTSD that we know about ... We've taken everything that we can think of that will be of use in redirecting symptoms for these folks and put it into an eight-week program."

Brown, Pehm and Sharon Stewart, a Red Cross volunteer who recently received a doctorate in psychology, said the program is designed from research into the effects of traumatic experience and mirrors successful PTSD programs at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as programs run by psychologists in the U.S.

"We are building on the groundbreaking work that some of our peers and colleagues have done and just expanding it out," said Brown.

During treatment, patients begin the day with a community meeting where they discuss how well they feel and any additional issues or concerns since their last meeting. The remainder of the day depends on the curriculum scheduled for that week.

The first few weeks focus on learning basic coping skills such as how to reduce anxiety and fight fear, as well as yoga and meditation for relaxation. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, an evidence-based practice for treating PTSD, is also conducted during the early phases of the treatment program.

"The concept behind EMDR is that, essentially, memories become fixed in one part of our brain and they maintain their power and control over our emotions as long as they are fixed there," said Brown. "And if we can activate a different part of the brain while we're experiencing that memory, we can help to remove some of that emotional valence from it. So we use physiological maneuvers to activate both sides of the brain."

The goal at the beginning of the PTSD program is to provide patients with a number of tools they can use to help them calm down when feeling overwhelmed, especially before more intense therapy begins in the latter weeks. Cognitive processing therapy is used throughout the program. EMDR and prolonged exposure therapy are also available on an individual basis at the Soldier's request. All three techniques are research-based treatments.

When life-changing events occur, Brown said perceptions about the world may change. For example, before Soldiers experience combat trauma they may think the world is safe. Following combat, a Soldier's perceptions may change - a majority of the world may now seem unsafe. Cognitive processing therapy attempts to re-address experiences and reshift a Soldier's perceptions.

Prolonged exposure therapy is behaviorally based and addresses a Soldier's fears, which are seen as reflex reactions to a stimulus. To decondition the reactions, a patient is continually exposed to the stimulus by retelling the story repeatedly, minus the negative outcome. Brown compared it to riding a roller coaster over and over again to overcome a fear of roller coasters.

"So they're getting EMDR, they're getting cognitive processing therapy, they're getting individual therapy, they're getting group therapy, they're getting education, anger management, self-esteem, relationship issues, grief and loss, yoga, meditation exercise, skill building -- a little bit of everything across the board," said Brown. "Not everything's going to resonate with everyone who comes through, but something's going to resonate for everyone who comes through."

In addition to the overall core curriculum, Brown and her staff have programs such as pain management, relationship enrichment and tobacco cessation to help individualize treatment.

"The core of the group and individual education is consistent for everyone," said Brown. "But we recognize that every patient is different, and we have to tailor-make it to give an individualized treatment plan. We don't keep people in pain management if they're not in pain. We don't give them tobacco cessation if they're not smoking. So we do try and tailor as much of it as we can."

Spirituality, relationship enrichment and gender-specific issues are also areas of focus.
"The program is holistic," said Pehm. "It looks at people from different spheres, not just the medical model, because everything is impacted when someone has combat stress or PTSD - not just the individual Soldier, but everybody who comes in contact with them."

The intensity, length and "kitchen sink" qualities are not the only aspects that make this program unique, said Brown. It is a joint military and civilian effort accomplished entirely by volunteers. The staff is as diverse as the therapy options, and includes chaplains, social workers, Red Cross volunteers, psychiatrists, a nurse practitioner, enlisted psychiatric technicians, and graduate students. Brown said having a sundry of personnel keeps the program fresh and the staff excited.

"The patients get perspectives from people from a number of different backgrounds," said Brown.

Thus far, the staff outnumbers the program's participants.

"By design we started out small, and we were able to establish a really good working relationship with the local Warrior Transition Unit people ... It's been a wonderful working relationship with them," said Pehm.

Evolution is currently on it second eight-week course, with five patients enrolled. The first class had four. The goal is to keep the class size small in order to benefit from the program's intensity. Thinking small also helps keep the impact large by successfully returning Soldiers to their units, while also expanding access outside the WTUs. However, Pehm said they would like to expand the program to include patients from throughout the European Command.

"Ideally, we'd like to max it at about 10 because it is so intensive," said Brown. "These are folks we hope to remediate and return to the Army to be functional members again. Also, if they go back to their communities and their providers or spouses see the changes that have come about, that will increase the willingness or desire of more people to be here."

Though few have completed this young program, signs of success have already started to surface.

"With the last group, the shift from 'I have to be here' to 'I'm so glad I came' was really phenomenal," said Pehm.

"One of them said that he didn't think he was getting anything out of the program," Brown said. "It was about week six until he saw himself react differently to a situation that came up, and watched himself do it differently using skills that he didn't know he learned. He went 'Wow,' maybe I am getting something out of this."

It is too early, and the numbers are too small, to generalize the early trends, but self-completed PTSD checklists showed a significant decrease in reported symptoms for three of the four patients in the first cohort. Additionally, anxiety and depression symptom measures decreased.

"The whole idea is that we know all the changes aren't going to take place here," said Brown. "But we hope we give them enough learning to send them in a different direction. My hope is that we can build a program to provide valid, effective treatment to folks who have put themselves in harm's way at the request of their country, and help them live happier and better lives."

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Southcom Embraces Two-Way Impact of Social Media

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 4, 2009 - Social media has become all the rage throughout the military as a growing number of senior leaders turn to blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter entries and other social networking venues to get word out about their activities and engage new audiences. Commands exploring the best way to get involved in social media might want to consider the experience of U.S. Southern Command, the first combatant command to embrace these new communication forms.

Sarah Nagelmann, who served as Southcom's strategic communications director, had a receptive audience when she first pitched the concept of a commander's blog last fall to Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis.

Nagelmann didn't envision a blog posted under Stavridis' name, but filled with other people's entries. She wanted the commander, who moved on last month to the top posts at U.S. European Command and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, to do the writing.

"The commander has to own his or her own voice," Nagelmann told American Forces Press Service. "As soon as you delegate that communication platform, it loses its impact."

Readers are too savvy to confuse material written by a staffer, particularly a public affairs person, with the words of the commander, she said. The language becomes stilted. The leader's personality is lost, and with it, the authenticity of the message.
"And once you lose that authenticity, I think people are more hesitant to engage on that platform," Nagelmann said.

That misses the whole point of social media: generating a dialogue with audiences the commander might never have had the opportunity to interact with otherwise.

"Once you lose that authenticity, their incentive to participate goes down," Nagelmann said. "You have lost the utility of the platform."

Nagelmann can't imagine why a military command would elect not to engage in the increasingly popular social media. By some estimates, more than 60 million people maintain a blog. Meanwhile, the MySpace and Facebook social networking sites have quickly risen to become the most-visited U.S. Web sites.

"If we choose not to engage in this platform, we will be represented by others, and we lose the opportunity to represent ourselves," she said. "That cost is just too high to ignore. There is absolutely an opportunity cost in not engaging."

In fact, Nagelmann recommends that commanders compound the effectiveness of their social media outreach by empowering their people to represent the organization through their social networking efforts.

"If we can ensure everyone affiliated with an organization understands what we do, why we do it and why it matters, and give them the ability -- empower them -- to communicate that, then we have created a really strong capability, and one that will touch a lot more corners than relying on one voice alone," she said. "It can become a really powerful mechanism."

But Nagelmann, who accompanied Stavridis to Eucom and SHAPE as his strategic communications advisor, also recommends that commands formulate at least a basic plan before launching a social networking effort.

"We have to think deliberately about what we want out of these platforms before we just jump in willy-nilly," she said. "Using them the wrong way isn't advantageous because you're not generating the response or reaction you are looking to create."

Engagement, she emphasized, is what social media is all about. Unlike traditional media, social media opens the dialogue to a broader population, eliminating barriers so more people are able to offer ideas and share their expertise and experience.

"We are looking to provide information and to create dialogue," she said. "If we don't do that in a way that enables others to participate, if it is always one-way transmit, then I think that's a danger. We've lost the effectiveness."

Nagelmann said she's satisfied with the results of Southcom's initial foray into social media, but sees more opportunity yet to be tapped.

"What we have enabled is a way for others who do not know how to interact with Southcom to send us comments, questions, thoughts, reactions to any number of things," she said. "We have provided a mechanism that is accessible globally and allows others to find us and enter into conversation with us where, before, the barriers to entry were incredibly high."

Looking at the feedback Southcom received through its early social networking efforts, Nagelmann has one complaint: it's been too positive. She'd like to see more constructive criticism.

"We want feedback about where our strategies are working and where we can do better," she said. "Critical feedback is the point. We are giving people the opportunities to say, 'I understand what you are doing and I appreciate the perspective. Here is an alternative one.

"Once we get to that point, I think we will have a meaningful platform."

As more commands enter social networking, Nagelmann urges them to be willing to try new things and recognize that mistakes are an inevitable part of the process.

"We have to be open to experimenting and occasionally making mistakes and learning from them," she said.

She also reminds commands not to forget that social networking is just one of many tools for communicating their messages.

"A lot of us are jumping at 'bright and shiny objects' because this new media space is interesting and fun, it's exciting and changing," she said. "But in reality, it's simply another venue. It doesn't replace anything. It's an additional mechanism to transmit and receive information."

Social media isn't for everyone, and doesn't reach the entire audience, she said. "It's complementary to all those other mediums out there, just one more way to reach out, engage and initiate dialogue," she said.

"But if we choose not to participate, and cede our voice to others in this environment, that is going to do us no good," she said. "We are finally beginning to understand the power of this platform. And the uses are almost endless."

Face of Defense: Soldier to be First Female Head of Drill Sergeant School

By Crystal Lewis Brown
Special to American Forces Press Service

Aug. 4, 2009 - Army Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa King of the 369th Adjutant General Battalion has been selected the next commandant of the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School. When she assumes responsibility in September, the ceremony not only will be commemorating a new school leader, but also the school's first female commandant.

King, who learned of the selection in June, will replace Army Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Newsome as head of the school.

King enlisted in 1980, and, soon after, attended the same school she later would be slated to lead.

"I went to Drill Sergeant School before I went to my basic school for my [military occupational specialty]," the Clinton, N.C. native said. "The Drill Sergeant School has set the foundation for my training, so it's ironic that I'm going home."

Despite her rank as a specialist, she said she was expected to perform to the same level as the rest of the students. "They held me to the same standards that they held the [other] drill sergeants," she said.

Her graduation was held in the morning, she said, "and I was on the trail that afternoon."

King said it is important to note that a hard worker will shine, regardless of gender. "It really doesn't matter if you're male or female," she said. "If you...enforce standards, people will respect you."

King said it has not really set in that she will be the first woman to hold the school's top spot, but said she hopes the selection will encourage other women.

"Because I'm doing it ... that means another female command sergeant major can do it," she said. "I think it's going to set the bar higher for them, not just for drill sergeants, but for other female soldiers."

Even now, King said, being selected as commandant is a surprise. "It's sort of one of those moments of ... utter disbelief," she said.

King added that she is honored and humbled by the selection, and is grateful for the chance to take the reins.

"I feel like I'm chosen to lead a noncommissioned officer who is charged with a high degree of responsibility," she said. "I'm responsible for them as they lead, mentor, counsel and train America's finest.

"There's nothing else that can compare to that."

(Crystal Lewis Brown works in the Fort Jackson, S.C., public affairs office.)

MILITARY CONTRACTS August 4, 2009

NAVY
Arise Scaffolding and Equipment, Cleveland, Ohio is being awarded a $57,000,160 ceiling firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract to provide scaffolding services for the Southwest Regional Maintenance Center's commercial industrial services code in support of Navy ships and other government vessels within a 50-mile radius of San Diego, Calif. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif., and is expected to be completed by July 2014. Contract funds in the amount of $3,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contract was competitively procured as a full and open competition via the Federal Business Opportunities website, with four offers received. The Southwest Regional Maintenance Center, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity (N55236-09-D-0020).

3001, Inc. is being awarded an indefinite delivery indefinite quantity architect/ engineering contract with a maximum amount of $15,000,000 for geographic information systems, professional surveying and mapping services in the NAVFAC Atlantic area of responsibility. Work will be performed at various Navy and Marine Corps facilities and other government facilities predominantly in the eastern United States but also worldwide. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via Federal Business Opportunities on a unrestricted basis with eleven (11) proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (contract number N62470-09-D-9013).

Boeing Co., Huntington Beach, Calif., is being awarded $14,557,563 firm-fixed-price contract for a Gigabit Ethernet Data Multiplex System (GEDMS) for the DDG51, a land-based GEDMS trainer, GEDMS hardware, and installation and checkout repair for the DDG51 GEDMS and GEDMS shipsets for the Royal Australian Navy. GEDMS is a ship-wide data transfer network for a ship's machinery, steering, navigation, combat, alarm and indicating, and damage control systems. It was designed to replace the miles of point-to-point cabling, signal converters, junction boxes, and switchboards associated with conventional ship's cabling. This contract contains three time and material options which, if exercised, will bring the total contract value to $14,872,563. Work will be performed in Huntington Beach, Calif., and is expected to be completed by January 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured with two proposals solicited and two offers received via the Federal Business Opportunities website. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division, Dahlgren, Va., is the contracting activity (N00178-09-C-2003).

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY
US Foodservice/Joseph Webb Division, Vista, Calif., is being awarded a maximum $51,877,500 firm-fixed price, prime vendor contract for full line food distribution. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. The proposal was originally Web solicited with three responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract is exercising the third option year period. The date of performance completion is Aug. 17, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Pa. (SPM300-08-D-3206).

Abaxis Inc., Union City, Calif.*, is being awarded a maximum $38,338,817 fixed price with economic price adjustment, indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity contract for chemistry analyzer accessories and reagents. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. There were originally 455 proposals solicited with 61 responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Aug. 4, 2014. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Pa. (SPM200-09-D-8207).

AIR FORCE
Colorado Springs Utilities, Colorado Springs, Colo., was awarded a $18,300,000 contract to provide connection charge; provide dependable renewable solar photovoltaic solar electrical energy, a 3MW solar farm. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 10th Contracting Squadron, United States Air Force Academy, Colo., is the contracting activity (FA700-09-F-0023) .

DEFENSE ADVANCED RESEARCH PROJECTS AGENCY
Hardwire, LLC, Pocomoke, Md., is being awarded a $6,370,392 other transaction for prototypes agreement for development and testing of armored vehicle hull bottoms. Work will be performed in Pocomoke City, Md., and is expected to be completed in September 2010. Funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. DARPA issued a solicitation in Federal Business Opportunities on March 6, 2009 and more than 50 bids have been received. The contracting activity is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Arlington, Va. (HR0011-09-9-0001).

Officials Urge Parents to Check Students' Immunization Records

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 4, 2009 - Department of Defense Education Activity officials are reminding parents to review their children's immunization records to ensure they're up to date by the first day of the school year. "Updating students' immunizations is an important part of back-to-school preparations," said Mary Patton, chief of the activities' Pupil Personnel Services branch. "We want all students to be ready to learn, and in order for them to be ready to learn, they need to be healthy.

"Requiring children to be immunized protects the rest of the school, and the staff and other families as well," she added.

All the usual childhood vaccinations are required including those used to protect against measles, mumps and rubella, polio and diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

The DoDEA Immunization Requirements Form, available on the activity's Web site, includes a list of required immunizations for students enrolled in an activity school.

"The one vaccine that we don't require right now ... is the HPV [to prevent] cervical cancer," Patton said. "The reason for that is pretty simple. It's not a communicable disease in schools."

If a school nurse notifies a principal that a student is not up to date on immunizations, the principal will send a letter to the student's parents informing them. Students won't be allowed to attend school until they have received the needed immunizations or an appointment is scheduled to receive them.

Military treatment facilities provide students with needed immunizations, and parents can coordinate with their child's physician to obtain the required vaccinations prior to the start of the school year. If required vaccines are temporarily unavailable, the military treatment facility will notify the school superintendent, and students will be allowed to attend school until the vaccine becomes available.

Students may attend school without being immunized due to religious beliefs.

"Parents can write a letter," Patton said. "They don't have to give us their religious beliefs, but [just say] that they do believe it is against their religion."

The minute there's a outbreak of anything, though, children who have not been immunized have to be sent home, she added. The same is true of those children who have a medical waiver for immunizations, Patton said.

Military Music

On August 6, 2009, Conversations with American Heroes at the Watering Hole will feature a two hour special exploring music performed, and in some instances created by, active duty military personnel.

Program Date: August 6, 2009
Program Time: 1700 hours, Pacific
Topic:
Military Music
Listen Live: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/LawEnforcement/2009/08/07/Military-Music

About the Program
Music from the United States Marine Corps, United States Army, United States Navy, United States Air Force and United States Coast Guard will be presented along with historical information and commentary. Listeners are encouraged to call in and dedicate a song to current, former or retired member of the United States Military. Music will include:

Allons Allons!! US Army Chorus
Big Jim Blues US Army Jazz Ambassadors
American: A Musical Memorial US Army Band
Big Red One US Army Chorus
Red Bulls 34th Division Band & Chorus
Back Bay Boogie US Army Jazz Ambassadors
Washington Post March US Army Band
Yellow Ribbon US Army Chorus
Stars and Stripes Forever US Army Band
US Army Song US Army Chorus
Caisson Song US Army Chorus
Armed Forces Medley US Army Band
Semper Paratus US Coast Guard Band
St. Louis Blues US Coast Guard Band
Air Force Song US Air Force Band
A Change in Elevation US Air Force Band
Big Mama Louise US Air Force Band
Anchors Aweigh US Navy Band
US Navy Hymn US Navy Sea Chanters
If the Shoe Fits US Navy Commodores
Marine Corps Hymn US Marine Corps Band
Comes Autumn Time US Marine Corps Band
Bullets and Bayonets US Marine Corps Band
Adagio, and Fugue in C Major US Marine Corps Band
William Tell Overture US Marine Corps Band
Star Spangled Banner US Marine Corps Band

About American Heroes Radio
American Heroes Radio broadcasts from “The Watering Hole.” The Watering Hole is a location heroes go off-duty to blow off steam and talk about work and life. Sometimes funny; sometimes serious; but, always interesting.

About the Host
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster was a sworn member of the Los Angeles Police Department for 24 years. He retired in 2003 at the rank of Lieutenant. He holds a bachelor’s from the Union Institute and University in
Criminal Justice Management and a Master’s Degree in Public Financial Management from California State University, Fullerton; and, has completed his doctoral course work. Raymond E. Foster has been a part-time lecturer at California State University, Fullerton and Fresno; and is currently a Criminal Justice Department chair, faculty advisor and lecturer with the Union Institute and University. He has experience teaching upper division courses in Law Enforcement, public policy, Public Safety Technology and leadership. Raymond is an experienced author who has published numerous articles in a wide range of venues including magazines such as Government Technology, Mobile Government, Airborne Law Enforcement Magazine, and Police One. He has appeared on the History Channel and radio programs in the United States and Europe as subject matter expert in technological applications in Law Enforcement.

Listen, call, join us at the Watering Hole:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/LawEnforcement/2009/08/08/Air-Force-Office-of-Special-Investigations

Program Contact Information
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA
editor@police-writers.com
909.599.7530

Tricare Deputy Director Highlights New Programs

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

Aug. 4, 2009 - Tricare is enhancing its programs and services as part of an ongoing commitment to provide quality health care for military families, the new deputy director of Tricare Management Activity said. One of Tricare's key initiatives is to enhance the contact beneficiaries and their family members have with their primary health care provider, Navy Rear Adm. Christine S. Hunter told "DotMilDocs" listeners July 30 on Pentagon Web Radio.

"The 'medical home' concept is an exciting way of looking at an individual's relationship with their primary care provider," she said.

The medical home concept emphasizes four health care pillars: accessibility, continuity, coordination and comprehensiveness. Hunter said that it takes the doctor-patient relationship to a new level.

"It creates an enhanced relationship with that health care provider to ensure access, continuity and trust," Hunter said. "We need to offer care that is coordinated and comprehensive. In order to do that, we will emphasize preventive care and wellness, ensuring that people are in a partnership with their provider that allows them to get the preventive care that they need, and manage any chronic medical conditions that they have."

Hunter also addressed Tricare programs, and how beneficiaries can make the best use of their benefits by highlighting four main goals of the Tricare health plan: providing beneficiaries and their families with access to the best health care, ensuring satisfaction with their health care, managing health care costs responsibly, and last, but most important, she said, maintaining military readiness.

Part of military readiness, Hunter said, is maintaining family readiness. "We see family readiness as an important part of overall readiness. Secretary of the Navy [Ray] Mabus recently said 'they who wait also serve' and we have a strong commitment to them," Hunter said.

Tricare also is providing to its beneficiaries access to a Web-based Tricare Assistance Program that will provide online counseling.

The program launched Aug. 1, Hunter said, and is for active-duty servicemembers and their families, people in the Transitional Assistance Management Program, and selected reserve members who purchase Tricare Reserve Select and their eligible family members.

"The Tricare Assistance Program provides Web-based supportive counseling; you can dial in on your home webcam to talk to a counselor and get the assistance you need in the privacy and comfort of your own home," Hunter said.

The program enables visitors to obtain an unlimited number of sessions with the same counselor. "We think this will go a long way to making folks feel more comfortable and reducing stigma," she said.

Hunter also discussed electronic health records as a priority. One of the advantages of Tricare is the ability to keep track of the quality of health care beneficiaries receive through the use of electronic medical health records, she said.

She noted that Tricare is fully supportive of President Barack Obama's initiative to help manage health care in America through the use of electronic health records. These records provide long-term health information that can be used to predict trends.

"We think this really improves the quality of care because you don't have to waste valuable time during personal interactions repeating your past medical or family history," Hunter said.

(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg is assigned to the Emerging Media Directorate of Defense Media Activity.)

Pentagon Weighs Social Networking Benefits, Vulnerabilities

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 4, 2009 - A Defense Department review is weighing the benefits of social networking and other Web 2.0 platforms against potential security vulnerabilities they create. In a memo issued last week, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III directed a study of social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in hopes of establishing a policy by October, Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters today.

"We're addressing the challenges from a security standpoint, but also the impact and the value that they have to the department to be able to communicate in a 21st century environment," Whitman said.

Per his deputy's memo, Defense 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. Both Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have embraced the new technologies.

The Pentagon's chief information officer is taking the lead on the review, which was catalyzed by concerns raised at U.S. Strategic Command, Whitman said. Stratcom is responsible for overseeing the use of the "dot-mil" network.

In the meantime, there are no department-wide orders banning the use of social networking and other Web 2.0 applications, Whitman said, adding that standard local restrictions to such sites may occur due to bandwidth or security concerns.

"But as a department, we recognize the importance of taking a look at this issue because there are legitimate security concerns," he said.

In an interview with a blog site yesterday, Price Floyd, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, emphasized the importance of maintaining operational security, or Opsec, in an era of Web-based social networking.

"Opsec is paramount. We will have procedures in place to deal with that," Floyd told Wired's "Danger Room." "The [Defense Department] is, in that sense, no different than any big company in America. What we can't do is let security concerns trump doing business. We have to do business. ... Companies in the private sector that have policies like us don't dare shut down their Web sites. They have to sell their products and ideas -- and this is how it's done.

"Opsec needs to catch up with this stuff. This is the modern equivalent of sending a letter home from the front lines," he added. "Opsec needs to be considered on this stuff, but the more our troops do this stuff, the better off we are."