State seeks to cut duplicate Web links

GCN Photo by Dan Gross

'Anytime you put in a new system people want to keep the old system until they are positive the new one works. That's human nature.'

'State deputy CIO Bruce Morrison

In the wake of an inspector general report criticizing duplicate Internet connections at overseas posts, the State Department plans to consolidate Net services.

The redundant services are popping up as the IRM Bureau implements its OpenNet Plus project, through which the bureau is installing secure Internet access for 30,000 users at 260 State locations in the United States and abroad.

Officials at several bureaus and overseas missions told the department's IG staff that they have or plan to maintain separate Internet access despite the OpenNet Plus connections.

'Their reasons for keeping existing connections include having backup Internet service in case OpenNet Plus becomes unavailable or ensuring additional capabilities,' such as remote log-in and audio- and video-streaming, that OpenNet Plus currently does not provide, the report said.

Justify connections

The separate connections could cost the department $1 million annually, the IG staff found.
The report urged the IRM Bureau to adopt a policy under which the independent Internet connections would be shut down unless users can make a business case to justify them.

State deputy CIO Bruce Morrison said OpenNet Plus has been established at about 30 locations, some of which still have separate Internet connections.

He said the department will issue a memorandum 'that would require people to pull the plug on standalone Internet LANs within 30 days after OpenNet Plus is installed.'

Morrison said users at some posts with separate Internet connections have been unwilling to give them up.

'When people see how reliable OpenNet is, they will be less likely to keep a standalone LAN,' Morrison predicted. Many users are taking a wait-and-see approach toward OpenNet Plus, he said.

'Anytime you put in a new system, people want to keep the old system until they are positive the new one works,' he said. 'That's human nature.'

Internet abuse

In the same report, the IG staff also criticized the bureau's lack of a policy for monitoring employee Internet use. 'Even with the limited Internet access currently available, the department already has experienced some abuse by its employees,' the report said.

Morrison said his bureau does not agree that the department needs a new policy. 'That is not as clear-cut an issue' as cutting off individual Internet connections, he said. 'The human resources people in the department feel there are already policies in place to deal with employee Internet abuse.'

He said State has disciplined nine employees for misusing the Internet. Some of the disciplinary actions have included suspensions.

'There already is a policy in place that explicitly says that by using a government system, employees consent to be monitored,' Morrison said.

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