Starting Monday, the Defense Department will block access to MySpace, YouTube and a host of other sites on official department computers worldwide, in an effort to boost its network efficiency.
Troops and families living on U.S. bases will still be able to view the sites through private Internet networks, but the move leaves servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan who use the popular picture- and video-sharing sites with little or no access to them.
Defense officials said the move is solely a reaction to the heavy drain the streaming video and audio can put on the defense computer network.
“We’re not passing any judgment on these sites, we’re just saying you shouldn’t be accessing them at work,” said Julie Ziegenhorn, spokeswoman for U.S. Strategic Command. “This is a bandwidth and network management issue. We’ve got to have the networks open to do our mission. They have to be reliable, timely and secure.”
In a message to troops from U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell on Friday, he acknowledged many of the sites being blocked are used by troops to keep in touch with family and friends.
“This recreational traffic impacts our official DOD network and bandwidth availability, while posting a significant operational security challenge,” he wrote.
Ironically, the Defense Department this year had just begun expanding its own use of YouTube to reach a younger, broader audience and show clips of U.S. troops in action.
Multi-National Force — Iraq, U.S. Army Civil Affairs Command in Afghanistan, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Gulf Region have all launched new channels on the Web site to highlight recent successes overseas.
Ziegenhorn said that wasn’t taken into consideration when the Joint Task Force Global Network Operations began reviewing and flagging sites that posed problems to the network.
“This is all about what is a drain on the system,” she said.
A review of the banned sites has been under way since February, she said. And the task force is still considering other problematic addresses to add to the list.
“This will be an ever-evolving discussion, because we need to constantly make sure those networks are available and secure,” she said.
The official policy blocking the sites will be released Monday, the same day they go into effect. But Ziegenhorn said most network administrators are already aware of the change.
The individual services have already blocked some sites for the same bandwidth issues. In addition, Defense Department policy prohibits troops or civilian workers from using government computers from accessing inappropriate sites because of inappropriate content, such as pornography.
Army Engineers – Gulf YouTube page
Army Civil Affairs – Afghanistan YouTube page