Two views of the Air Force:

Cognitive dissonance anyone?

One would thing so, but no. This is just another example of the struggle many organizations face — the push and pull between the IT overlords and the PR gurus for ownership of the online space.

Who will win? I’m afraid to ask…


Noah at Danger Room is smacking military PAOs around a little:

Forget the drone stuff. Here is your eye-popping statistic of the day: “This year, the Pentagon will employ 27,000 people just for recruitment, advertising and public relations — almost as many as the total 30,000-person work force in the State Department.”

That’s from an Associated Press investigation, “which found that over the past five years, the money the military spends on winning hearts and minds at home and abroad has grown by 63 percent, to at least $4.7 billion this year.”

Staff costs take up most of the money, more than $2 billion. Another $1.6 billion goes into recruiting. About a half-billion goes towards “psychological operations, which targets foreign audiences.” And, finally, “$547 million goes into public affairs, which reaches American audiences.”

That last one may be the most amazing figure of ’em all. Because getting a straightforward answer out of most military public affairs shops is still a root-canal-painful procedure. You’d think it’d be easier, with all those resources brought to bear.

Come on, Noah. You’re being a bit unfair. My response:

First, as already noted that the 27,000 includes recruiters — which mean staff in small towns peppered across the country. The actual communications apparatus is SIGNIFICANTLY smaller.

Even if you took the whole 27,000 though, which may seem like a lot, you need to consider that there are about 1 MILLION soldiers and nearly that many government civilians that are in or work for the Army. This means recruiting and communications make up a scant 1% of the organization.

And last, I understand the challenge getting answers from military PAOs. But you know as well as anyone that there are laws governing release of military information. Violating those laws can put Soldiers’ lives at risk — and, from their personal perspective, is punishable by fines and prison.

Given what is on the line with release of information, I don’t begrudge a PAO spending a little time fact checking, getting security review and legal take before putting information into the public domain.

No matter what you think, I’d definitely read the AP article that inspired Noah’s post.

Hotel Tango: Pew and PR Newser

… and enjoy the insanity that is about to descend on DC, I thought I’d share the top search term for people who got to my blog this week:

“Women in flight suits”

Who knew?

Happy innauguation weekend, everyone.

Apparently I offended the social media gods last night at Social Media Club DC when I made the audacious statement expressing my sincere hope that every Tom, Dick and Harry in the federal government didn’t start a blog to become more “Gov 2.0”

Some in attendance expressed disagreement. Others called me elitist.

For the record, I’m not elitist. I’m just smarter than everyone else. (Bad joke.)

But I do stand by my statement. And here is why.

Social media isn’t about technology; it is about using technology as a platform to change the way that people use media to interact with one another. Similarly, Gov 2.0 isn’t about technology; it is about sharing information and empowering the people to help government help them.

However, those uninitiated with social media, seeing the “trend” of participatory communication, all too often suffer from GMOOT — “Get Me One of Those.”

“I hear viral videos are big. Lets make one.”

“Blogging is the new pink. Build me one.”

“Everybody’s doing this Twitter thing. I want to too.”

Government takes time to change. A massive bureaucracy doesn’t shift overnight. My fear is that any mandate for government to adopt Web 2.0 communications efforts will turn into a series of GMOOTs. From every director of the division of the under-secretariat of the department of whatever.

And when that happens, and there is no PURPOSE behind the use of the technology, all you get is noise. Or, just as bad, a lot of blogs that are abandoned after a few weeks.

Participatory democracy isn’t easy. You’ve got to work for it. Reducing Gov 2.0 to “let’s build a blog!” is simplistic and naive.

I am all for government officials engaging in social media literacy. And yes, the best way to learn about the tools and the technology is to use them. But that doesn’t mean that the use should be devoid of purpose and strategy — especially if you are a government employee playing with these toys on the taxpayer’s dime.

So what is the solution? Resist the urge to create a blog just because you can. Consult with people who have experience with social media. Talk about organizational goals and objectives and then decide if/how/what kind of social media is right for your communications program. And, just as important, talk about how you will measure the Gov 2.0 program’s effectiveness and identify benchmarks for determining success.

And last, be leery of anyone whose knee-jerk reaction to implemting a social media program in government is “let’s do a blog!”

Are you in DC? Do you like gathering with other social media geeks? Does government new media interest you? Do you think Steve Field is just the cutest guy on the planet?

Then come to Social Media Club tonight at the Partnership for Public Service building in downtown Washington!

Mark Drapeau, Chris Dorobeck and I will be speaking on a panel, moderated by Booz Allen Hamilton’s social media evangelist Steve Radick. We’ll be talking about what we can expect in social media in government in the Obama administration, the opportunities and the pitfalls for government employees looking to integrate social media into their operations, things for government contractors to consider in social media, and much more.

Here are the details:

Date: January 14, 2009

Time: 6:30 – 8:00 PM

Location: Partnership for Public Service (http://www.ourpublicservice.org/OPS/)

1100 New York Ave, NW

Suite 1090 East

Washington, DC 20005

Building Entry: Let security know you are here for the SMC-DC event at the Partnership for Public Service. Security will give you access to the building’s lobby where there will be signs directing you to the East Elevators and up to Suite 1090 East.

Metro: Metro Center – take the 12th & G St. exit. Walk two blocks north.

Driving: Street parking and a public garage in the building with a nominal charge for parking. Garage elevators will empty into the lobby and you can follow the signs to Suite 1090 East.

I think it will be a pretty interesting conversation with these guys — they are all heavy hitters.

Better start cramming for tonight! Hope to see you there.

I seldom post other people’s blog posts verbatim, but Bill Roggio (who is one of the best out there) rebuts Joe the Plumbers comments suggesting that we should get rid of war correspondents so well. I couldn’t resist.

This one is a must read (from the Weekly Standard blog):

There has been no shortage of coverage of Joe the Plumber’s foray into reporting on the Israeli military operation in Gaza. As someone who started reporting on the war as an independent reporter, I could understand PJTV’s decision to support citizen journalism by sending Joe to Israel. Sure, the decision was clearly made to generate publicity for the conservative, web-based news service, but PJTV’s decision to expend their resources is theirs to make.

After a few days of watching Joe fumble through interviews and issue his awkward opinions, it’s clear the guy is in over his head. Here’s what Joe has to say about the media and their coverage of the war:

I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think journalists should be anywhere allowed war (sic). I mean, you guys report where our troops are at. You report what’s happening day to day. You make a big deal out of it. I think it’s asinine. You know, I liked back in World War I and World War II when you’d go to the theater and you’d see your troops on, you know, the screen and everyone would be real excited and happy for them. Now everyone’s got an opinion and wants to downer–and down soldiers. You know, American soldiers or Israeli soldiers.

I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting. You know, war is hell. And if you’re gonna sit there and say, “Well look at this atrocity,” well you don’t know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it.

First, if the media shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a war, what are you doing there, Joe? And why did PJTV send you?

Second, while embedded as an independent reporter in Iraq and Afghanistan several times, I have seen journalists do some appalling things. I could probably write a book about it, but honestly I’m far more interested in the war itself. Despite what I have seen, I believe the media should have access during conflicts. Shutting the media out would entirely concede the information to al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, etc. who are increasingly developing sophisticated information strategies. Yes, there is bad and slanted reporting coming out of the combat zones, but there also are good reporters out there who can get the story right. The public needs to hear these stories to understand the nature of the war.

Third, if Joe’s spent any real time with the military, he’d know they typically don’t want reporters to cheerlead for them. In my experience, all the troops on the ground want is a fair shake (senior commanders may or may not want such candor). If something is working, they want you to tell that story, and if something is going wrong, they want that story out there too. One reason for the latter is that often the media can serve as a back door to get some problems fixed that the chain of command may be ignoring.

Finally, Joe is advocating a 1940’s media strategy for wars that are being fought in the 21st Century. We can’t roll back the mass access to print, television, the Internet, cell phones, etc. and push the news on grainy films at the theater.

The real irony here is that PJTV, a 21st Century, Internet-based news organization is sending a reporter–who doesn’t want reporters to report on war–to report on a war. And apparently Joe would love to return to the days when the news was influenced by the government and seen at the theater.

Somebody shoot me


TOLEDO, Ohio – Joe The Plumber is putting down his wrenches and picking up a reporter’s notebook.

The Ohio man who became a household name during the presidential campaign says he is heading to Israel as a war correspondent for the conservative Web site pjtv.com.

Samuel J. Wurzelbacher says he’ll spend 10 days covering the fighting.

He tells WNWO-TV in Toledo that he wants to let Israel’s “‘Average Joes’ share their story.”

Wurzelbacher gained attention during the final weeks of the campaign when he asked Barack Obama about his tax plan.

He later joined Republican John McCain on the campaign trail. At one stop, he agreed with a McCain supporter who asked if he believed a vote for Obama was a vote for the death of Israel.

Your fifteen minutes are LONG past up, man. Please exit stage left.

I sure hope this guy doesn’t start a blog.

Not only is the (in)famous WaPo military correspondent a new fellow at CNAS, but Tom Ricks also now has his own blog called The Best Defense at the new ForeignPolicy.com. Two big announcements on a Monday. Isn’t that a bit much Tom?

Old-school PAOs have heard of the “Ricks Rule.” We’ll see if he creates new rules for the blogosphere.