The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is the federal department charged with coordinating and supervising all agencies and functions of the government relating directly to national security and the military. The DoD is the primary tenant of the Pentagon, with three major components: the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, and the Department of the Air Force. MilTech is a forward-operating agency of the U.S. Army, charged with developing technology solutions.
Companies across the globe have started to recognize the benefits that social networking tools provide when it comes to community building, collaboration, and information sharing. While the U.S. military saw the potential these tools held, its privacy concerns surpassed those of even the most secretive company. After all, broadcasting the status of your top-secret project to a LinkedIn network could have truly disastrous consequences. So when the DoD started thinking about how it could use these Web 2.0 tools to enable communication within the military community, it was clear that widely used public-facing tools were not going to work for its unique needs.
VENDOR OF CHOICE: JIVE CLEARSPACE
A homegrown blog and wiki solution had been developed in 2008 for the Fort Monmouth (N.J.) community. Though the pilot for that program had ended, it experienced some success, and the defense department saw a chance to use those existing tools to help address the larger communication needs of the military to create milSuite. Then, in October 2009, it took that one step farther and added milBook-a secure social network specifically designed for the needs of the military community-powered by Jive Software's Clearspace.
THE PROBLEM IN-DEPTH
Like so many companies and organizations around the world, the Department of Defense was interested in Web 2.0 tools but had to weigh its extraordinary privacy concerns against the convenience. According to Justin Filler, deputy director of MilTech Solutions, PEO C3T, the demand for “milBook grew from two complementary needs. One was to provide secure communities of interest to those using the more-open wiki and blog platforms. The other need stemmed from the ability to make connections with others within the work force in order to better collaborate within a geographically dispersed environment.”
Alas, with employees and soldiers located around the world, the ease of sharing provided by social tools could not be ignored. “We believe those in the military should experience the same kind of ease of use that they are getting in the public domain, but instead of talking about the latest movie release you have the potential of saving lives and billions of dollars,” says Filler. The advantages of using Web 2.0 tools for the military were huge, but the consequences of not getting it right could be dire.
With that in mind, the MilTech department set to work on creating a custom tool for its needs. “The overall goal of milSuite is to provide a means for those within the AKO/DKO [Army Knowledge Online/Defense Knowledge Online] community to locate information, share knowledge, and connect with people regardless of position or physical location,” says Filler. “By flattening the playing field, we are able to expose duplicative efforts, share best practices, and provide transparency across the various services.”