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Steven Aftergood over at Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy News project writes today that President Trump recently commented off-handedly that reports from the Department of Defense’ Inspector General should be private and not publicly accessible. It’s unclear if this off-the-cuff comment will lead to less public access to these important reports, but Aftergood notes that “secrecy in the Department of Defense has increased noticeably in the Trump Administration” but that the Pentagon still publishes a massive amount of information. What is clear is that this one small comment could have huge implications going forward from “For Official Use Only” markings to restrict access to information to perhaps an erosion of the FOIA process. This is certainly something to keep an eye on.
The recurring dispute over the appropriate degree of secrecy in the Department of Defense arose in a new form last week when President Trump said that certain audits and investigations that are performed by the DoD Inspector General should no longer be made public.
“We’re fighting wars, and they’re doing reports and releasing it to the public? Now, the public means the enemy,” the President said at a January 2 cabinet meeting. “The enemy reads those reports; they study every line of it. Those reports should be private reports. Let him do a report, but they should be private reports and be locked up.”
It is not clear what the President had in mind. Did he have reason to think that US military operations had been damaged by publication of Inspector General reports? Was he now directing the Secretary of Defense to classify such reports, regardless of their specific contents? Was he suggesting the need for a new exemption from the Freedom of Information Act to prevent their disclosure?
Or was this simply an expression of presidential pique with no practical consequence? Thus far, there has been no sign of any change to DoD publication policy in response to the President’s remarks.
According to a recent GCN article “DOD wants you … to browse its visual library” the US Department of Defense has entered into a “no cost” contract with a company called T3 Media to have them digitize DoD’s massive image and video archive. It seems that DoD employees will get free access to the digital archive, but T3 Media will receive a 10 year monopoly license to charge for public access to the archive.
This is not the first time that a federal agency has entered into “no cost” contracts to privatize its public domain information. A few years ago, GAO contracted w Thomson/West to digitize GAO’s archive of legislative histories of public laws 1915 – 1995. When will federal agencies realize that giving away the whole store does them and the public a HUGE disservice?!
According to Rick Prelinger who alerted us to the GCN article:
In exchange for covering a share of digitizing and hosting costs (the government will pick up an unspecified share of costs as well), T3 Media will provide access to the government and receive a 10-year exclusive license to charge for public access to these public domain materials.
I contacted T3Media’s communications manager who could only tell me that “the material will be available for licensing.” Costs, procedures and restrictions are still undecided or undisclosed. T3 will possess the highest-quality digital copies of these materials and there is no guarantee that DoD will offer them to the public online when the 10-year window expires. It’s therefore hard to know whether this contract will serve the public interest.
The Department of Defense announced today the release of a cloud computing strategy that will move the department’s current network applications from a duplicative, cumbersome, and costly set of application silos to an end state designed to create a more agile, secure, and cost effective service environment that can rapidly respond to changing mission needs. In addition, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has been named as the enterprise cloud service broker to help maintain mission assurance and information interoperability within this new strategy.
For further information:
- DoD Cloud Computing Strategy
- Cloud strategy memo
- Designation of DISA as the enterprise cloud service broker
Of related interest:
GAO was asked to (1) assess the progress selected agencies have made in implementing OMB’s “Cloud First” policy and (2) identify challenges they are facing in implementing the policy. To do so, GAO (1) selected seven agencies, analyzed agency documentation, and interviewed agency and OMB officials; and (2) identified, assessed, and categorized common challenges. The agencies were the departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, State, and the Treasury; the General Services Administration; and the Small Business Administration.
GAO recommended should these agencies direct their respective chief information officer (CIOs) to establish estimated costs, performance goals, and plans to retire associated legacy systems for each cloud-based service discussed in this report, as applicable.
Significant highlights of the report include the consideration of the significance of climate change on national security; the greening of the Department of Defense, including efforts to make the military more environmentally friendly, to anticipate and prepare for environmentally driven crises and disasters, and to achieve energy security; and efforts to convert the nontactical vehicle fleet away from gasoline-dependence, and a Navy plan to deploy a carrier strike group running on biofuels and nuclear power by 2016.
For more analysis of what’s inside the QDR, please see the following articles:
- Growing Pentagon Focus on Energy and Climate. Andrew C. Revkin. NY Times dOTEarth blog.
- What’s inside the Quadrenial Defense Review. Robert Farley. Tapped: the group blog of the American Prospect
All of the strategic defense reviews are available at DoD Strategic Defense reviews including the Quadrenial Defense Review (QDR), Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR) and the Space Posture Review (SPR).
Happy anniversary [w:Internet]! it was 40 years ago, on December 5th, 1969 that the original 4 node network of [w:ARPANET] — the experimental network built with funding from Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the US Defense Department — was connected. For more, see the exhibit at the Computer History Museum.
The initial ARPANET consisted of four IMPs. They were installed at:
- UCLA, where Leonard Kleinrock had established a Network Measurement Center (with an SDS Sigma 7 being the first computer attached to it).
- The Stanford Research Institute’s Augmentation Research Center, where Douglas Engelbart had created the ground-breaking NLS system, a very important early hypertext system (with the SDS 940 that ran NLS, named ‘Genie’, being the first host attached).
- UC Santa Barbara (with the Culler-Fried Interactive Mathematics Centre’s IBM 360/75, running OS/MVT being the machine attached).
- The University of Utah’s Computer Science Department, where Ivan Sutherland had moved (for a DEC PDP-10 running TENEX).