Facebook for the government?

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Print this page Paula C. Squires

Even within federal agencies, social networking is all the buzz.  But when it comes to government security and other challenges, tapping into the social media’s potential can be challenging.

That’s why ManTech International Corp. has created the Center for Web 2.0. The Fairfax-based defense contractor has a lab up and running with a dedicated team to explore how best to use social networking services for federal clients.

“One of the major challenges in the federal market is that these services need to be integrated,” says Rolf Palmer, director of strategic solutions for ManTech. “They can’t buy 8 different applications… It’s cost prohibitive.”

Yet, there’s no denying what he calls “the tremendous collaborative value of establishing the ability for people to share comments, discuss and, in some cases, reach solutions on problems they’re trying to address.” 

The center gives ManTech a chance to build on A-Space. That’s short for Analytic Space, a collaborative work space — similar to social networking technology — that ManTech developed for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. The government contract program has been hugely successful, attracting more than 10,000 users among intelligence community analysts and winning recognition from Time magazine as one of the 50 most innovative products of 2008.

According to the company, A-Space helps analysts connect and share large amounts of data — including graphics and video — in a secure environment. In fact, the government contract program has been so popular that ManTech just received a three-year, $11 million government contract to continue A-Space.

Now it’s looking to broaden such offerings. “It’s a top priority, “ says Mark Root, executive director of corporate communications and marketing.  “Other agencies are saying ‘I’d love to have this for our department.’” 

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