The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency warned its employees and contractors last week to stop using their government computers to surf the Internet for porn sites, according to the agency's executive director.
In a one-page memo, MDA Executive Director John James Jr. wrote that in recent months government employees and contractors were detected "engaging in inappropriate use of the MDA network."
"Specifically, there have been instances of employees and contractors accessing websites, or transmitting messages, containing pornographic or sexually explicit images," James wrote in the July 27 memo obtained by Bloomberg News.
"These actions are not only unprofessional, they reflect time taken away from designated duties, are in clear violation of federal and DoD and regulations, consume network resources, and can compromise the security of the network though the introduction of malware or malicious code," he wrote.
Individuals identified as violating the rules face referral for "appropriate" disciplinary action, he wrote. They put "their security clearances in jeopardy, and are subject to suspension and removal from Federal service or MDA sponsored contracts," he wrote.
Agency spokesman Rick Lehner said in an e-mail statement that the memo was written in response to "a few people downloading material from some websites that were known to have had virus and malware issues."
A government cybersecurity specialist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because such work is classified, said that many pornographic websites are infected, and that criminals and foreign intelligence services such as Russia's use them to gain access to and harvest data from government and corporate computer networks.
The Missile Defense Agency is responsible for developing, fielding and upgrading the nation's ground- and sea-based missile defense programs, working with Japan and Israel, among other nations. Its top contractors are Chicago-based Boeing Co. (BA); Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland; Raytheon Co. (RTN) of Waltham, Massachusetts; Falls Church, Virgina- based Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC); and Orbital Sciences Corp. (ORB) of Dulles, Virginia. The Pentagon is seeking $7.7 billion for the agency in fiscal 2013.
The Pentagon Inspector General criticized the agency's director, U.S. Army Lieutenant General Patrick O'Reilly, for abusive behavior toward subordinates in a May 2 report.
"Witnesses testified that O'Reilly's leadership style resulted in a command climate of fear and low morale," the inspector general found. The report was posted on the IG's website.
In his memo, James reminded employees that MDA "network systems are subject to monitoring at all times. Inappropriate usage will be detected and reported to supervisors for appropriate disciplinary action."
"The seriousness of the potential breach to operations cannot be overstated," James wrote. "Contracting officers will coordinate action through contractor management when contractor personnel engage in inappropriate usage."
Asked if the memo was issued to intimidate MDA employees from accessing the IG report, Lehner said no.