War Is Boring pal Josh Foust, he of Registan fame, is in Afghanistan, where he discovered that the Army has blocked access to a wide range of Websites, including this one. Here’s Josh:
[W]hen I first arrived here, I made an alarming discovery about the state of IT in the Army. Practically all of the blogs and other online tools I use to stay informed and connected to my colleagues … did not work. More accurately, they are deliberately blocked by a series of web filters, both automatically and manually constructed, in an effort to restrict inappropriate uses of the Internet from Army computers. This is a noble goal — I prefer that they block porn from office computers — but it is so unevenly implemented as to make me wonder what its real intent is.
For one, there is the messy issue with the word “blog.” While a lot of blogs could be classified as time wasters, simply banning that says “blog” in it results in some strange blocking selections, like the State Department’s official blog. …
I began to wonder: could there be a pattern to these blocks? So I began manually checking a lot of blogs that I read regularly, outside my RSS reader. The results are below:
Blocked on Army IT Not Blocked on Army IT http://abumuqawama.blogspot.com http://blog.bouhammer.com/ (this became available in the last 72 hours) http://easterncampaign.wordpress.com/ http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/ http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/ http://blog.wired.com/defense http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/stevecoll/ http://www.defensetech.org/ http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/ http://www.longwarjournal.com/ http://www.blogs.state.gov/ http://www.wonkette.com/ http://www.blackfive.net/ http://www.jezebel.com/ (and all other Gawker sites as well) http://letusbuildpakistan.blogspot.com/ http://www.autoblog.com/ (and all other Weblogs, Inc. blogs) http://www.captainsjournal.com/ http://warisboring.com/ http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/defense/ http://www.twitter.com/ (and all other major social networking sites) http://www.wordpress.com/ http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/
… [It] speaks to a deeper problem in how the military in general is approaching IT issues in the field: it makes absolutely no sense. Many of the blocked blogs are sources for deep, intelligent, and even essential analysis, news, and discussions. In fact, I only know they are blocked because I read them and see value in them. Moreover, when the Army’s own Command General Staff College is requiring its students to blog (how lucky they can actually read that news, as it is on [the blocked] SWJ), blocking other blogs, especially ones written by think tankers and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists of the very wars we are fighting, is nonsensical. The military wants to be relevant, it wants to be able to compete in the “information battlespace” (a wretched term I use only for simplicity’s sake), yet it cripples anyone’s ability to have situational awareness. It would be one thing if the Army were good at disseminating information internally, but they’re not.)
I won’t lie: I’m a little hurt. Emotions aside, I agree with Josh that blocking blogs such as War Is Boring only hurts the military’s efforts to reach the public with important messages and impedes the free exchange of ideas that is vital to our war efforts. Consider my recent contributions to the national-security process, all anchored in this blog:
* War Is Boring was an important player in the evolution of the Army’s “MilSpace” forums, where soldiers can freely exchange tips and tactics outside the normal, glacial bricks-and-mortar processes
* My reporting is now included in the National Security Space Office’s handouts for promoting its squad space transport concept
* I was recently contacted by a Marine Corps officer conducting research on conflict in Chad. He said this blog was the only source he could find for up-to-date information on the Central African country and its security problems
And that’s a partial list. It’s dumb for the Army to block this Website, and others. That’s like prohibiting soldiers from subscribing to The New York Times. Not that this humble blog is as big and well-resourced as NYT. They are, however, equally valid sources of information and equally powerful forums for debate on national security.