Air Force Uses Twitter to Allay GPS Concerns

Air Force officials used the Air Force Space Command Twitter account Wednesday for a scheduled forum – or Twitter news conference – to respond to public worries over a recent General Accounting Office report critical of its management of the GPS program.

“Agree w/ GAO thr’s a potential risk, but GPS isn’t falling out of the sky–we have plans 2 mitigate risk & prevent a gap,” the Air Force officials said, in the odd cadence of texting and Twitter-speak.

The GAO report predicted only an 80 percent likelihood the Air Force would be able to maintain the full 24-satellite infrastructure that powers the GPS system over the period between 2010 and 2014. Going below 24 satellites could result in lower GPS performance, according to the GAO.

“The issue is under control. We are working hard to get out the word. The issue is not whether GPS will stop working. There’s only a small risk we will not continue to exceed our performance standard,” the Air Force official said.

In January, the government of Israel held a Twitter news conference to clarify its position and policies on the volatile situation in Gaza, and the growing social media communication platform appears to be gaining interest as a vehicle that blurs the lines between advertising/public relations and true real-time communication with a global audience.

The Greater Milwaukee Committee recently hosted an interactive discussion panel on using social media as a business tool, followed by a “Twitter news conference” in which followers were invited to tweet questions for guest speakers, such as Brian Kalma, director of User Experience for Zappos, a Fortune Top 100 employer widely recognized for its strategic use of social media and business innovation. Kalma and GMC representatives responded live via Twitter to tweeted questions from “the audience.”

Others remain skeptical that Twitter can provide a credible vehicle for effective communication despite today’s increasingly connected, on-line aware population.

Rachel Maddow, the MSNBC anchor and a rising star of television journalism, for example, mocked the idea of a government spokesman addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in tweets barely a sentence long. “The Israeli government is trying to explain a conflict that people write books about, a conflict that newspaper writers struggle to explain in 2,000 words, in 140 characters at a time,” she marveled.

In any case, Twitter has certainly disrupted the communications landscape in a way that seems to be captivating individuals, businesses and government officials alike, with the question remaining who will become its most effective users and to what ends they will put their expertise.