DISA: Can't Run YouTube and a War Simultaneously

Have you ever tried to use your home computer network for a business presentation with a deadline in a matter of hours while the kiddos in the house are all downloading videos from YouTube or checking out their friends on MySpace? You quickly find out it’s difficult for business to compete with pleasure, and you yell at the kids to knock it off.

That’s the situation the Defense Information Systems (DISA) and the Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations found themselves in when they assessed the impact that video and social networking sites had on the Defense Department’s Global Information Grid (GIG). What did they find? The GIG just didn’t have the bandwidth to support streaming video and music for thousands or even millions of end users, a DISA spokesman told Tech Insider. In an Associated Press reported that "the policy is being implemented to protect information and reduce drag on the department's networks, according to" Gen. B.B. Bell, the U.S. Forces Korea commander. "This recreational traffic impacts our official DOD network and bandwidth ability, while posing a significant operational security challenge," according to an Army memo released Friday that the AP quotes.

The Operational Directive Message sent by DISA and the joint task force told all combatant commands, the four services and all Defense Department agencies to bar access to video-sharing, photo and social network sites to preserve the bandwidth needed to support DOD missions, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Streaming audio and video -- including YouTube.com and MySpace web sites

-- have always been blocked to Coalition troops in Iraq," said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. Army spokesman. "This is done to preserve military bandwidth for operational missions. There are some internet cafes and other networks in various locations throughout Iraq that do not rely on military bandwidth, and troops can often visit those types of web sites on those networks."

A DISA spokesman said some DOD circuits â€" including those to units operating in the two war zones â€" likely went over thin satellite connections, which have less bandwidth than units in the states hooked up to the GIG over high-speed fiber-optic networks.

The DISA spokesman said the order had nothing to do with censorship of deployed troops, but a need to conserve DOD network resources. And, just like home networks, DOD end users engaged in mission critical work can find that their work is slowed by too many people downloading videos or music over the network, he added.

DISA spent months evaluating the drag caused by social networking and video on DOD networks and did not make the decision to ban them arbitrarily or capriciously, the agency spokesman said. He added that the decision was in no way related to an Army directive issued this month, limiting blogging by Army personnel.

The joint task force directive bars access to video sites YouTube, Metacafe, IFilm, StupidVideos and FileCabi; social networking sites MySpace, BlackPlanet and Hi5; music sites Pandora, MTV, 1.fm and live365; and the photo-sharing site Photobucket.