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Defense Department Web Site Eases Information Delivery

By Judith Snyderman
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2009 – The new Defense Department Web site is designed to make military news and information more accessible, and also invites greater participation from the public, the department’s top public affairs official said yesterday.

“[Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates] wanted to hear back from people more. He felt that he couldn’t really engage with people outside of the senior leadership that he talks to here in the building,” Price Floyd, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, told bloggers and online journalists during a “DoDLive” bloggers roundtable.

Prominent on the Web site –- at http://www.Defense.gov -- is a new “We Want to Hear from You” feature that invites users to ask questions and vote on policy issues they want explained. Floyd said submissions will be tallied every few weeks, and that Gates and other senior leaders will reply to questions that garner the most interest.

Floyd said the redesign places greater emphasis on social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, citing anecdotal evidence of the benefits.

“Some of these stories about the men and women being able to do homework with their kids back here in the States in real time because of these social networking sites and the software that is out there, I just think those stories are amazing,” Floyd said.

A new defense policy is under review to make access to social networking sites from “dot.mil” accounts more uniform across the services. Floyd noted that the policy will balance both the benefits and legitimate security concerns related to social networking.

“In the past, when you’d send a letter home to your mother or family member, that was the one person who got it, and they might tell a couple of friends what was in there,” he said. “But the nature of the new technology is that you put an update on your Facebook or Twitter account and thousands of people know about it right away, and they can forward it to thousands of people. So, operational security is possibly even more important than it was before.”

Other redesigned “Defense.gov” features provide quicker access to pages and services -- such as the Pentagon Channel and Defense Department news -- that are most sought by Web site visitors. A subscription area for RSS feeds and widgets allows visitors to pull news stories and updates to their own sites automatically.

While the new site replaces http://www.DefenseLink.mil as the department’s main Internet entry portal, the target audience remains unchanged, Floyd said. “No. 1 is our internal audience of about 3 million, both active-duty military and civilian folks,” he said. “Another one is the U.S. public, and the third is those overseas.”

Floyd said that the number of people getting their news from social networking sources is growing; however, “we don’t just want to do this to do it; we want to do it because it has impact and so that we have a real engagement with people back and forth.”

Floyd invited bloggers and the public to send him a “tweet.” Visit http://www.Defense.gov and click on Twitter in the left-hand column.

(Judith Snyderman works in the Defense Media Activity’s emerging media directorate.)

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Related Sites:
Defense Department Web Site
Special Report: Social Media
"DoDLive" Bloggers Roundtable

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