ARLINGTON, Va. --
The Marine Corps made a long anticipated move March 29 when it authorized use of social networking sites, user-generated content, social software, e-mail, instant messaging and discussion forums on the Marine Corps Enterprise Network.
Marine Administrative Message 181/10 defines Internet-based capabilities as publicly accessible Internet capabilities not operated by the Marine Corps, Department of the Navy or Department of Defense.
The policy is by no means a free-for-all of access.
According to the MarAdmin, Marines are allowed to visit social networking sites for “reasonable durations and frequency” based on the determination of a supervisor.
The office of command, control, communications and computers (C4) previously sited bandwidth, security and productivity issues among the top concerns when the Marine Corps began reviewing its social networking policy. However, C4 officials said these issues are now a matter of balancing morale and operational needs.
“Given new technologies and communication forms, and a new generation of war fighters…social media provides an opportunity never realized in generations past,” said Capt. Eric L. Holmes, the current plans and policy officer at C4.
Concern has been placed on whether access to Internet-based capabilities will negatively impact operational security; an issue Holmes said is no more a threat than other forms of communication.
“When accessing social media, Marines will have to remain vigilant in order to ensure operations security, or OPSEC, is maintained,” he said.
The sergeant major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent, acknowledged while he may not “utilize or understand its capabilities,” social media is not a fad.
“Social media is clearly becoming a way of life for today’s younger Marines,” Kent said. “So many Marines are utilizing these sites, and this is just another tool to help spread the word and inform Marines on important topics.”
The Corps’ original policy, which placed a ban on social networking sites, sparked controversy in both civilian media outlets and internal Marine Corps audiences when it was released.
Once the DoD announced its Internet-based capabilities policy in February, the ban became obsolete.
“Upon the release of the DoD policy, the Marine Corps began a review of our social networking policy to include MarAdmin 458/09,” said Gunnery Sgt. C. Nuntavong, media chief at the Division of Public Affairs. “After an evaluation of operational requirements and the overall security of the MCEN, we decided to lift the ban for accessing SNS.”
According to an official statement issued by Headquarters Marine Corps, “The Marine Corps will remain vigilant when it comes to security. We are working toward the best mix of security and access that allows the Corps to remain safe and communicate effectively.”
Though Corps-wide social media access is something new, Marine Corps public affairs offices have been engaged in social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, for the better part of a year.
“Through the use of social media, we are able to listen and interact with people around the world,” Nuntavong said, who manages the Marine Corps’ official Twitter account. “We encourage Marine Corps units, through their public affairs offices, to establish an external official presence online.”
Marine Corps officials stress that the new policy does not end security risks to the MCEN, and the new policy should be partnered with new training standards for Marines.
“The Marine Corps understands and embraces Internet-based capabilities,” said Maj. Gen. George J. Allen, the Director for C4 and chief information officer of the Marine Corps. “Compromises to the Marine Corps Enterprise Network raise serious issues for protecting the safety and lives of our Marines. We have a responsibility to use the Internet in a responsible way, and that means our Marines are educated on information assurance and operations security.”
The MarAdmin establishes that training will be implemented through annual information assurance training. The Marine Corps is currently drafting separate policy for external official presences as well as guidelines and best practices for Marines.
Overall, Marine officials said the new policy would help communication, but stress it must be done correctly. Even the sergeant major of the Marine Corps plans to use social media.
“We’re going to test the waters on Facebook first and see how that goes, and then may launch a Twitter account,” Kent said. “The Facebook fan page will go public soon, and I’m interested to see how that helps me communicate with Marines, sailors and the public.”
Kent did express some caution however, saying, “we’re making sure we’re not getting too deep, too quickly.”
A list of official Marine Corps social media sites can be found at www.marines.mil/pages/sociamedia.axpx.