Pentagon Press Secretary holds first Twitter Town Hall

Tags: Twitter

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2012 – For 45 minutes yesterday, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little traded a range of 140-character questions and answers with hundreds of users of the online social networking service called Twitter.

Topics included the situation in Syria, Defense Department energy-saving efforts, cooperation between the military services and international development organizations, unmanned aerial vehicles, wounded warriors, tensions with Iran, military benefits for same-sex partners, cyber threats and many more.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the first DOD Twitter town hall," Little told American Forces Press Service, adding that he appreciated engaging with the "Twitterverse."

In 2011, Twitter estimated that it had 300 million users worldwide.

"Social media is now an important forum for addressing topics of concern to troops and family members and the American public," Little said, "so it makes sense to engage not just in traditional formats, but on the Internet."

Difficult topics can be a challenge on Twitter because of the 140-character limit, the press secretary acknowledged. "But you can do multiple tweets, and you can also point people through Web links to other sources that have more material," he said.

Little, whose Twitter handle is @PentagonPresSec, said he needed some help to keep the rapid-fire session efficient. "I decided which [questions] to answer," he said. "I had some colleagues helping me manage the inflow of questions, but the answers were my own." Participating tweeters marked their questions with the hashtag #AskDOD.

Following is a sampling of Little’s answers to questions posed during the session:

-- @13monsters asks about Libya v. Syria. Each difficult situation, but approaches to dealing with crises must be case-by-case.

-- @BrandiMaples asks about PTSD. #troops screened on redeployment and 3-6 mos after return. Committed to diagnosing & treating.

-- @antman311 asks about unmanned systems and Global Hawk. We will continue to invest in UAVs. Key intel and targeting tool.

-- @moberhoffner asks about #energysecurity. DoD has major efforts underway led by @ASD_Sharon Burke to improve battlefield energy efficiency.

-- @scott__diller asks re: wounded warriors. We do everything possible to support WWs. Visited WWs in Ger on Fri. Many want to return to serve!

After several people asked about DOD energy conservation efforts, Sharon E. Burke, assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs, leapt in to help.

"@ASD_SharonBurke DOD Energy / DoD energy security means better defense, less risk, lower costs, from geostrat to tactics see @pentagonpressec #askDOD," she tweeted.

"There were several good questions," Little said. "They varied widely, but I certainly after this experience see the power of this format. On certain issues you can connect people to other organizations. You can address very briefly a national security issue, and you can dialogue directly with people without filters."

Little said he may do more Twitter town hall events. Today, a few of the questions from yesterday's town hall are being answered through the @DeptofDefense account on Twitter.

By Cheryl Pellerin

American Forces Press Service