DOD amends donations policy

The Pentagon announced June 7 it will reverse a recent policy that calls for destroying the hard drives on nonclassified computers before donating them to schools or other organizations.

The new policy calls for simply overwriting or demagnetizing the hard drives of computers that have held nonclassified information, said Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of Defense. The policy still mandates that hard drives be destroyed on computers that have contained classified information, and it provides for the option of destroying hard drives on computers with information considered particularly sensitive.

Overwriting and demagnetizing (also known as degaussing) are both methods for rendering stored data unreadable.

Linton Wells II, acting Pentagon chief information officer, signed the new policy June 4. It reverses a policy implemented early last year that calls for destroying hard drives on all computers before they are donated. The policy was intended to ensure that no sensitive information would be given away along with the computers.

But destroying hard drives that had contained nonclassified information was seen in some quarters as excessive.

The Defense Department donated more than 74,000 pieces of computer equipment to schools in 2000. This equipment had an original acquisition value of $97 million. The new disposal guidance will make more computers available for schools and other organizations, according to a Pentagon announcement.

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