Some Army Web sites to go dark
- By Bob Brewin
- Oct 04, 1998
In the wake of its decision last week to shut down all 998 of its publicly accessible World Wide Web sites, the Army expects that some of those sites will remain offline permanently.
Chris Unger, an information systems specialist who serves as Webmaster for the Army home page, said he believes that after commanders of units or installations complete an operational security review, "they may decide they have nothing to offer the public'' and decide to leave their Web sites shut down.
"There will be some number...of Army Web sites that will never come back up," said Unger, who serves as the Web policy coordinator for Lt. Gen. William Campbell, the Army's director of information systems for command, control, communications and computers.
Campbell ordered the stringent security review in response to new Defense Department Web policies instituted last month by Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre.
The Pentagon said its tighter Web polices resulted from a "data mining'' effort conducted by the Joint Staff on military Web sites this year. DOD launched the
project after a senior flag officer complained that he was receiving unsolicited calls at home, at an unlisted number, from callers who knew specifically who he was and what he did. Starting out to do a search on the Web with just the general's name, the Joint Staff data mining team was able to extract the general's complete address, unlisted phone number and, using a map search engine, build a map and driving directions to his house.
Unger could not predict when most Army Web sites will go back online, pointing out that a new draft Army policy puts responsibility for public sites in the hands of local commanders who best know "what can be released."
Although DOD and Army Web policies focus on matters of operational security and ensuring that personnel information is not posted on the Web, Army acquisition and procurement sites— which are key to the electronic commerce plans backed by Hamre— were caught in the overall shutdown. Unger did not hold out much hope for a quick return of those sites until they first institute stricter controls. "I'm guessing that any [Army] organization which had all its business processes Web-based with no access controls would be in serious trouble,'' Unger said.
Eben Townes, vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in federal IT procurements, said, "You can't fault the Army for its security concerns and goals.'' But, he added, shutting down acquisition and procurement sites in the last week of the fiscal year— a heavy ordering period— "was tough."
"Smart vendors have come to rely on the Web," Townes said. "and [the shutdown meant] they were unable to have visibility into what was happening.''
Unger said he viewed any "inconvenience'' to vendors as "small'' in comparison to force-protection imperatives.
The Air Force, the Navy and the Marine Corps decided to leave their sites up, preferring to conduct an online review. One DOD Webmaster, who declined to be identified, said the Army had no choice but to shut down its sites because of the lack of central Web policy oversight and review.
David Compton, the senior administrator for the Air Force Web Information Service in the Air Force Public Affairs department, said that in most cases the Air Force already had instituted the procedures mandated by Hamre. "The Air Force has a policy that all sites have to be registered with this office as part of a complete command and security review [process]," he said.
The Air Force views its Web sites as "multifaceted tools'' serving a number of publics, Compton said, so the Air Force could ill afford to shut down all its sites without electronically disenfranchising its own personnel, Compton said. The main site, Air Force Link at www.af.mil, gets 1.4 million hits a week, Compton said, "and about half of those are from Air Force personnel."
The Navy also decided to leave its sites online while conducting the security review, according to a spokesman for the Office of the Chief of Naval Information in the Pentagon, because "we can easily remove information from a site without taking down the entire site.''