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Military Moves Social Networking to Safety

January 15, 2010
by Rita Boland
E-mail About the Author

The U.S. military has added a third feature to its knowledge management tool suite milSuite by imitating a popular social networking site behind the firewall. MilBook enables users to create personal accounts as well as public and private groups to facilitate networking and data sharing. The application diminishes stovepipes by connecting people working on similar projects and moves information that might have been posted on a commercial site open to the world into a more protected environment.

MilBook went live at the beginning of October 2009, joining its predecessors milWiki and milBlog. Information about the features’ users is linked through virtual business cards. When people sign into milWiki or milBook, the cards are created automatically as the platforms pull core data from users' Army Knowledge Online/Defense Knowledge Online (AKO/DKO) profiles. People can expand their milBook profiles by adding additional information not present in their other profiles. Visitors can click on the wiki authors' names and learn more about them from the virtual business card.

Justin Filler, the deputy director of MilTech Solutions, says that the ability to learn more about other users allows visitors to validate information they find as well as to access contact information. MilTech Solutions, the office that created and manages the tool suite, falls under Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications Tactical. The office works with a consortium of other organizations—mainly in the U.S. Army—to develop and provide the services.

According to Filler, milBook is open for use to Defense Department personnel who have an AKO/DKO account, excluding friends, family and foreign nationals. They can use their AKO/DKO login or their Common Access Card to enter milBook. "If you have an AKO or DKO account, most likely you have access, as only select account types are restricted," he says.

MilSuite uses the AKO authentication piece so account owners can use their profile information to access the tools without creating another account or password. Those who want to log into milBook can click quick buttons on the AKO/DKO site or go directly to the milSuite site. MilSuite resides on the nonsecure Internet protocol router network, or NIPRNet, making it more secure and private than wikis, blogs and social networking sites that are open to the general public. MilBook emulates Facebook so users are familiar with the design and features.

Filler says that the entire suite has approximately 50,000 users and that his office is looking to mirror the established milWiki accounts for the newer milBook. He states that around 200 people employ milSuite at any given time during a workday and that new content is generated every day.

Developers believe milBook will benefit users in several ways. "It's important because it allows for networking capabilities that didn't exist previously," Filler says. The application reduces the number of e-mails people have to send to resolve issues. It also links different processes so that they remain constant.

Of even more importance, according to Filler, milBook helps reduce duplicative efforts within the military because people can discover others conducting similar work and then can discuss and share information. The application also assists users trying to identify and reach out to subject matter experts without requiring them to move requests through a formal chain of command. "It's really flattening the playing field," Filler states. He adds that the goal for milBook is to promote this open collaboration and knowledge sharing as well as to have documentation of efforts available for people to use.