Troops in Europe still waiting for access to social sites
STUTTGART, Germany — More than a week after the Defense Department lifted its three-year ban on social media Web sites, U.S. troops in Europe are still waiting to gain access to sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
The new DOD policy, which went into effect on Feb. 25, states that DOD networks will be configured to allow access on government computers to such sites as Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter and Google Apps.
But implementation of the policy hasn’t trickled down to overseas bases yet.
“Local commanders still have to weigh security risk and bandwidth issues in their area of operation before they determine the best way to proceed,” said Chris Joseph, a spokesman for U.S. Army Europe’s 5th Signal Command.
Similar responses came from officials in the other branches.
“Until we get implementation guidance, we will follow the policy we have, meaning it is still restricted,” said Michael Kucharek, a U.S. Air Forces in Europe spokesman.
And the entire Marine Corps is still following its zero-tolerance policy for social media that was put into place last summer.
The Marine Corps policy “remains in effect,” said Maj. Carl B. Redding, a Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps spokesman. The Marine Corps is reviewing the new DOD policy and will update its policy if required, he said.
Under the new policy, commanders are still directed to take necessary steps to safeguard the mission, for example “temporarily limiting access to the Internet to preserve operations security or to address bandwidth constraints.”
Ironically, the Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps’ Twitter account has been nominated for a Shorty Award, which honors the “best producers of short real-time content.” Navy News also received a nomination in the government category.
Because of the DOD ban, many troops in charge of their service’s social media accounts were forced to update the accounts from home or have commercial networks installed in their offices.
With any luck, Europe-based troops will soon reap the same benefits as many of their counterparts.
For Army Spc. Ronald Gaete, who has been stuck in Chile since the earthquake last week, the social media sites have been his only means of communication.
“If not for [Facebook] and Twitter, my friends back on [Fort] Meade (Md.) wouldn’t know I made it out of the earthquake alive,” Gaete said via a Facebook instant message conversation while on vacation in Chile. “I use it almost hourly to keep in touch with family and friends.”