Oh, No! The Sounding Board is in WaPo’s In the Loop

The Office of eDiplomacy runs several knowledge-management and new media technology programs for the State Department: Diplopedia, the VPPs, Communities@state and the Sounding Board. Here is a quick description of the Sounding Board:

The Sounding Board is an initiative, launched by Secretary Clinton that enables domestic and overseas employees to submit ideas for Department innovation and reform. Employees are invited to contribute their ideas and suggestions for how to make the Department work in new, smarter, and more effective ways to advance our nation’s foreign policy goals. The end goal is to provide clear and well-defined proposals for review and action by Department management. Secretary Clinton and other senior Department officials consider both the initial proposal and the management response to determine if additional action or implementation is feasible and necessary.

The Sounding Board is, of course, located behind the great firewall and only available to folks with real logins.  No, we’re not allowed to read what they write about us over there.  That does not mean, it does not leak at times. Recently a discussion on abolishing the Board and WaPo’s In the Loop column, made an appearance, where else? In Al Kamen’s In the Loop.

Oh, dear, you’re now living your fears.  Excerpts below:  

Seemed fairly inside baseball for the most part, with many discussions about “overseas comparability pay” or medical evacuation policies or improving visa procedures and such. A good tool for internal discussion, though not worth spending a lot of time perusing.

But a recent discussion on the Sounding Board — about abolishing the Sounding Board itself — seemed worth a look. There was this posting, submitted by “Anonymous.”

“My real concern is the potential the Sounding Board has to embarrass the department,” the writer said, noting that “department employees are constantly derided as entitled, pampered bureaucrats who attend cocktail parties and live it up in Europe at the expense of the hardworking taxpayer.”

Some of that may be due to the inordinate media attention given to political ambassadors serving in fine European capitals vs. the majority of employees who work in unpleasant and even dangerous places.

The “stereotype is completely untrue,” the anonymous poster said, “but a casual perusal of the Sounding Board, particularly the many threads in which posters argue for more benefits, on top of the generous package we already have, could convince one otherwise.”

Then this warning: “A single ‘In The Loop’ item could damage the Department’s image for years to come.” (Demonstrably false.)

Another employee agreed. “I live in fear of the Washington Post reading one of the less-than-professional posts and having a field day!” she wrote.

(Note to file: Start paying more attention to the Sounding Board.)

Read in full here.

We can understand the sentiments but man, the Sounding Board is like mass email in sheep’s clothing.  It is internal, it is unclassified, it gets lots of eyeballs and it is electronic data that is cut copy and paste-possible and emailable.  

The Washington Post Front Page rule of thumb should still apply. I supposed, you now can realistically call it the — In the Loop rule of thumb, too.