"Fly Write and Win" could soon become the motto of the U.S. Air Force legal department. And thats no typo.
Earlier this month, GC Charles Blanchard launched a blog that he hopes will attract military and civilian readers alike.
Blanchard says that while he started the blog as a forum for the Air Force legal community, hes interested in including the larger legal community as well as everyday citizens who dont always understand how the armed forces operate. We do things a little differently, says Blanchard, but we do it that way for a reason.
Take the recent media spotlight on adultery, for instance, which is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In his blog, Blanchard linked to an article considering whether the militarys ban on out-of-wedlock romance might be outdated. Although he didnt personally comment within the post, he asked his readers to weigh in.
Blanchard told CorpCounsel.com that while such a strict ban might seem old-fashioned to a civilian audience, there are justifications for the law. Because couples are often split up for long periods by their military service, Blanchard says there needs to be intense trust between them.
Blanchard also hopes that his blog can create a forum for military insiders to rethink their own traditional policies. Generally speaking, the GC thinks its helpful to be exposed to different ways of thinking.
Blanchard learned the value of healthy discussions early on in his legal career. After finishing first in his class at Harvard Law School, Blanchard, a Democrat, clerked for Republican Justice Sandra Day OConnor. The Justice tended to vote conservatively during her first years on the Court. Though OConnor always made up her own mind, he says, she encouraged him to freely express his views.
Blanchard has reached out to others in the larger Air Force community to enlist them as bloggers. He recently invited Major General Charles Dunlap Jr., who retired from the Air Force in 2010 and joined the faculty of Duke University Law School, to post to the site.
Dunlap is already sharing the blog with his law students. In an email to CorpCounsel.com, he said the blog isnt the fluff you might expect from an in-house counsel. Unlike some other institutional blogs and websites, Blanchards blog is open to challenging subjects and provocative commentary--qualities that could make it a destination site for readers, Dunlap wrote.
It could prove to be an innovative way to reach audiences not necessarily disposed to consider governmental, institutional, or corporate websites as reliable information sources, he added.
Blanchard is no newbie to the blogosphere. Before he was nominated by President Barack Obama for the GC position in early 2009, Blanchard wrote about religion on two different sites (here and here).
He sought the help of a department intern to get his new site up and running. A home for the blog had to be found on the Department of Defense website, and the GC had to obtain approval from various public affairs channels. Rather than putting roadblocks in the way, Blanchard says that communications personnel encouraged him to go forward.
Getting his legal team involved has been a somewhat slower process. This is a whole new world for a lot of government lawyers, he says. Were taking baby steps. Deborah Gunn, associate general counsel, and David Robbins, assistant deputy GC, have already blogged on the site. I hope over time, Blanchard says, Ill be doing less and my people will be doing more.
But when does a full-time GC find time to blog? I do this in between meetings, he says. Blanchard preps as much as he can in the evenings by getting most of the necessary reading done. He culls articles from various sources to post to the site, and hones his own viewpoints.
So far he hasnt dodged the tough issues. He and other Air Force in-housers have invited discussion on topics such as cuts to the defense budget and ethical questions surrounding the use of nonlethal weapons.
Like any in-house lawyer, Blanchard has to keep client confidentiality considerations in the forefront of his mind. The GC provides legal counsel to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley.
If the secretary comes to him with a question, says Blanchard, hes not going to want to read my thinking on a blog.