Navy to clamp down on misuse of tech

Navy officials are set to release a policy designed to curb excessive personal use of the Navy's information technology equipment and services.

The Policy on the Acceptable Use of IT will explain the proper use of the service's computers, printers, telephones, cell phones, pagers, fax and copy machines, and personal digital assistant devices.

"We want to give them the tools to do their jobs, but they need to stay within the rules," said Dave Wennergren, the Navy's chief information officer.

With the new policy, Navy officials expect to use IT equipment and services more effectively to support their warfighting mission. The policy will ensure the best use of bandwidth and guarantee that sailors and Marines at sea and in combat can communicate and share important data, said Capt. Sheila McCoy, director of information assurance and privacy team leader in the Navy's CIO office.

"We want to ensure that IT assets are available for mission support," she said.

Navy officials also prepared the policy to eliminate the misuse of IT equipment and services, such as going to inappropriate Web sites and overusing telephone services for personal calls. "We have a responsibility to taxpayers for their ethical use," McCoy said.

Navy officials will inform employees of the rules in January 2005 via the Navy's message systems.

McCoy said most of the service's personnel will comply with the policy voluntarily because they want to do the right thing. However, Navy officials could request or conduct periodical spot checks to enforce compliance, she said.

Earlier this year, officials at the Naval Network Warfare Command in Norfolk, Va., consolidated the IT policies of the Atlantic and Pacific Fleet headquarters and Marine Corps. Those policies became the basis for the servicewide policy, McCoy said.

Lewis Maltbie, president of the National Workrights Institute, a nonprofit employee rights group, said Navy officials should research the policy issues thoroughly and talk to corporate leaders. "They should not rush into it, but there are legitimate concerns [about] how people in organizations should use electronic communications," he said.

During the past year, Maltbie said, some U.S. corporations relaxed their rules on employees' personal use of company equipment and services. The revised rules allow for reasonable use, he said.

"Reasonable," however, can mean different things to different people, he added.

Navy officials should keep three principles in mind in creating the new policy, Maltbie said. The policy should not

ban personal communications at work, should allow for reasonable personal communications at work and it should define "reasonable." n

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