NEWS | April 3, 2010

Pacific AF bases test new open access to social media

By Teri Weaver Stars and Stripes Pacific edition

TOKYO "" Five U.S. Air Force bases in the Pacific are the latest to allow servicemembers to friend, tweet and instant message from their desks at work.

On Tuesday, airmen at certain bases in Alaska, Guam, Hawaii and Japan received access to social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter for work and limited personal use, according to an Air Force spokesman at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam.

The changes come after a Feb. 25 Defense Department directive meant to establish rules about how or whether troops can use social media on non`classified Internet networks.

So far, military leaders from different branches are doling out that access in different ways. Earlier this week, the Marine Corps lifted its ban on social media worldwide.

The Air Force, however, is using five bases in the Pacific "" Andersen, Eielson and Elmendorf in Alaska, Hickam in Hawaii, and Yokota in Japan "" to test the new policy for security problems and bandwidth usage, according to Andersen spokesman Capt. Andrew Hoskinson.

"We're looking to strike a balance between ensuring that people can use these sites for official use and for limited personal use, with the need to protect the Air Force network," Hoskinson said.

The sites are scheduled to open to the entire Air Force on April 26, Hoskinson said in a phone interview Thursday.

Much like the Marine Corps' rules, airmen are prohibited from releasing any classified, operational security, or sexually explicit information on the sites, Hoskinson said.

Airmen are still prohibited from checking personal e-mail accounts "" such as Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail "" at work.

And usage of the social media sites should be work-related or a quick check rather than a daylong activity, "just the same way someone might check a sports score," Hoskinson said.