Gulf War Vets Home Page

Senators want DoD to explain Web limits

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jun 11, 2007 13:18:56 EDT
http://www.armytimes.com/news/2007/06/military_deployed_internetaccess_070611w/

A key Senate committee wants a full explanation by Sept. 1 about why Internet access has been limited for deployed troops, including to such popular Web sites as MySpace and YouTube.

The Senate Armed Services Committee did not, however, go so far as to order Internet access restored.

Instead, in its report on the 2008 defense authorization bill, the committee says it is concerned that the mid-May decision to prohibit troops from using U.S. government computers to access 13 Web sites hurt morale, even if defense officials ordered it to preserve bandwidth on military computer systems and to protect operational security.

The report was released Monday.

“The committee believes that access to the commercial Internet can promote strong morale among personnel in the field as well as family members on the home front,” the report says.

“Those deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world, sometimes for more than a year, deserve every opportunity to connect with their friends and family on a frequent basis,” the report continues. “Social networking web sites facilitate that communication for this generation, in the same way letters, phone calls, and telegrams did for previous ones.”

The 13 barred sites are BlackPlanet, FileCabi, Hi5, IFilm, Live365, Metacafe, MTV, MySpace, Pandora, Photobucket, StupidVideos, YouTube and 1.fm.

The sites have always been blocked on government computers for U.S. troops in the war zones, although they have been able to access the sites on computers outside the .mil Internet domain, such as those offered by morale, welfare and recreation activities. The Defense Department’s recent move extended the ban to all U.S. government computers worldwide.

The committee wants defense officials to give a “detailed description on the measurable effect that the use of these sites has had on operations and a detailed analysis of any bandwidth or security challenges that their use poses,” the report says.

Additionally, senators ask for a description of circumstances in which Internet access of deployed personnel must be denied for operational security reasons.

By setting Sept. 1 as the date for the report, lawmakers have left enough time in the year’s legislative session to order Internet access resorted if the military’s answers are unconvincing.