All over the news lately, is a new directive guiding contact with media. Commanders must now, according to the reports, clear interviews with the Department of Defense. SecDef Gates is credited with the new policy.
For the record, I totally respect the guy. He has made a very effective Secretary of Defense, in my lowly estimation.
Sec. Gates seems more open, honest, and free thinking than most government officials; he has one of the toughest jobs, to boot.
This new directive, however, is either knee-jerk or meaningless.
But something like this is only going to stifle media access. In a world in which personnel are cultured to guard information, most Soldiers hate giving it out anyway.
Ask a typical commander his troops; favorite brand of coffee, and he'll clam up like a terror suspect after being Mirandized.
This in an era that is supposed to be more informative. As a Public Affairs Specialist, I have been consistently frustrated with the Army's seeming ignorance of very public guidelines.
To wit, DoD Directive 5122.5, Among other things, establishes that:
- A free flow of general and military information shall be made available, without censorship or propaganda, to the men and women of the Armed Forces and their dependents.
- Information will not be withheld to protect the Government from criticism or embarrassment.
- Open and independent reporting shall be the principal means of coverage of U.S. military operations.
Gates' new directive would have done nothing to prevent it. Nothing (as far as I can tell) violated operational security, and had McChrystal cleared it with the guys up top, he probably would have just told them it was a personality profile.
We were all just shocked that his personality was so off-putting.
Go media. Go public affairs. Everyone is going to have to go farther and harder now that military commanders have more excuses to not talk.