Net Log John Makulowich

New Year Ushers In New DoD Web Policy

John Makulowich

While the commercial sector steadfastly pursues its Holy Grail-like quest for the ultimate Internet business model, the federal government, specifically the Defense Department, is focusing on the more mundane yet valuable task of promoting a policy for its World Wide Web sites.

Signed by John Hamre, deputy secretary of defense, and issued early last month, the 44-page memorandum, "Web Site Administration Policies & Procedures," is available online in .pdf format (www.defenselink.mil/admin/
dod_web_policy_12071998.pdf). As noted in its introduction, the memo "provides the DoD policy, assigns responsibility and describes the procedures for establishing, operating and maintaining DoD unclassified Web sites."

Among the newer wrinkles are measures for insuring Web security and what amounts to checklists for site administrators. In the weeks and months ahead, the memo will become must reading for those with responsibility for Web site content and administration.

It will also interest Web administrators in the private and not-for-profit sectors since the policy, according to the memo, applies not only to military departments but also to their "contractors and consultants, including those who operate or maintain DoD Web sites for them through incorporation into contracts."

Among the points made by Capt. Jim Knotts, DefenseLINK project manager and the person who posted the announcement about the policy document to the Fedweb-Announce discussion group, was the need to "exercise risk management, not risk aversion, when evaluating what information to put online." DefenseLINK, www.defenselink.mil, is the official, publicly accessible Web site for the Defense Department and the single point of access to all Defense Department information on the World Wide Web.

Clearly, the Defense Department supports using the Internet to distribute information. Also evident is the need to balance that support with considerations of security and safety for personnel and data. Beyond these obvious points, the memo puts into effect a few procedures that are simple and important and worth considering by all organizations.

For example, the procedures section notes a generic requirement that I would like to see on all organization Web sites: "Each Web site shall have a clearly defined purpose that supports the mission of the DoD component. The head of the DoD component shall approve the defined purpose and general content of the Web site. Noncopyrighted material, text, clip art, hypertext links, images and sound or video clips may be used only if they directly relate to the component's mission."

Another noteworthy procedure is referred to as Single Source Information. To prevent duplication on the Web, the memo calls for a Web site to limit itself only to information for which it is responsible. While there are exceptions, for instance, Web sites containing information required by the Electronic Freedom of Information Act, the general approach is admirable. Web administrators also may wish to review these sections: Information Posting Process, Administration and Verification, System Security Considerations and Examples & Best Practices.



You can send John e-mail at john@journalist.com; his Web address is www.cais.com/makulow/

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