If you’ve read anything I’ve written, you know I favor government agencies using social media to meet their missions. Strongly favor. I see these tools as offering tremendous potential benefits. Yet there are also other considerations at play.
Did you know the Department of Defense runs its own TV station called the Pentagon Channel? I haven’t really explored it, but the point is it exists.
Did you know that the Air Force blocks the Pentagon channel? Yes, that’s right: one of the major military services prevents its members from seeing what the larger organization is broadcasting.
At this point, you’re probably thinking one of two things:
- The Air Force IT people are idiots, or
- Someone in the Air Force knows something you don’t know
When I hear of seemingly absurd situations, I try to remember that leaders generally aren’t stupid. Partly, that’s because I’ve made my own decisions that seemed stupid on the surface but reflected knowledge that wasn’t commonly known. Partly, it’s because of my basic faith that most people make thoughtful decisions. Even if I disagree with their conclusions, I try not to assume they’re inane.
So I didn’t appreciate this blog post. The writer was so busy ridiculing Air Force leadership that he didn’t seem to read the explanation he included from a spokeswoman: it’s a bandwidth issue.
Not fear of online video, concern about wasted time, or a desire to quash the use of social media. Nor a too-limited focus on information security, privacy, or any of a hundred other reasons government agencies can be slow to adopt these tools.
Granted, I don’t know what else the spokeswoman said, and I don’t know what else the blogger might have uncovered. Maybe the bandwidth concern is a smokescreen. I’ll probably never know.
But that’s my point. It’s far too easy to snipe from the sidelines. Too many people think they know everything going into these decisions, and that they know better what should be done.
For example, the blogger thought it was important for Air Force personnel to be able to watch a cooking show. As a taxpayer, I’m wondering why my money is going to pay for the creation of such a show, and why my money should be allocated to provide bandwidth for anyone to watch it.
But I also assume there’s more to that story, and that the decision makers have reasons I’m not aware of.
By all means, the blogger and others should ask those questions. And government leaders owe the public the answers.
But even as you question, and even if you disagree, don’t assume the people making the decisions are stupid.