Letter to the Editor

Personal use of government equipment? Hogwash!

I was reading the comments by Treasury Department CIO Jim Flyzik in "Limited personal use is OK" [FCW.com, March 15, 2001]. Does he really believe all that hogwash? Government agencies have tried to crack down on Internet abuse of computers at work (notice I have used the word "abuse," where he actually said "personal use"). He stated further that it's an impossible task and that government should not even try to police (more hogwash!).

It has been my observation that going "unchecked," Web use becomes part of some employees' daily business: Looking for a new home, checking the weather, looking at NASCAR, maybe doing some stock trading.

Soon we find employees downloading tons of music, hundreds of pictures of their favorite race car driver, new slick programs and then eventually a nice little virus that sends every e-mail address in our organization to a hundred thousand other government employees and civilians.

Then there is the case of the spy tools (playing with the network), loads of games and neat graphics. Have you ever heard this one: "Using these game programs will enhance my professional skills."

All of this occurs on your (taxpayer) time.... Employees normally do not do this on their lunch hour. That seems to be their time.

I really do not see evidence of controlled use of the Internet in the workplace. On this infrastructure, we require a firm policy of business only: NO downloads, NO self-installs, NO games.

"NO" seems harsh, but guess what? The federal government actually expects me to work eight hours per day or take off on sick leave or annual leave. I do not think the taxpayers need me sitting here pondering the next stock investment or developing my personal skills with a challenging game of hearts across the Net. If we have so much free time, then maybe I am overstaffed? What a novel idea!

Talking with some co-workers in the area, I find that there is much more abuse going on than some wish to admit. If I see it locally, it seems to me that it may be just as widespread as industry reports. Let's get real—don't be afraid to ask for productivity like the private sector.

Here we have seen fit to make a policy that's pretty easy to understand: Government business only. We explain that this means no downloading (games, music, pictures, etc.) unless directly related and required in the performance of your job.

It also means that you cannot come to work early or stay late to use government equipment for personal use. Left unchecked, we found that our "pipes" to the Internet were clogged with streaming video, music and a ticker tape parade—and that prevented us from sending our financial data out for processing by the payroll center.

Well, hmm, if they missed one paycheck because they had the Internet pipe clogged with Napster, I wonder if they would excuse me?

Steve Foster
Information technology manager
Naval Air Station
Pensacola, Fla.

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