Defense Department to stop destroying used hard drives

The Defense Department has rescinded an order to destroy all unclassified computer hard drives that leave Defense custody. The directive, issued Thursday by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence, will potentially make thousands of computers available for donations to schools across the country. Wolfowitz's order follows a Defense Department inspector general's investigation last year that found sensitive information residing on hard drives that the agency had disposed of. The probe was initiated after revelations by former CIA Director John Deutch that he mishandled sensitive information on an agency computer. Deputy Secretary of Defense Rudy de Leon, Wolfowitz's predecessor, ordered last January that all hard drives-whether containing classified or unclassified information-be destroyed before leaving the agency's possession, said Pentagon spokeswoman Susan Hansen. "The IG's report said we needed to step up our procedures," said Hansen. However, she added, the agency has searched for a way to achieve balance when dealing with sensitive information, not just to destroy all data regardless of their content. The practice of destroying hard drives containing classified information still stands, an agency statement said, but new instructions provide guidance to departments on overwriting hard drives. The Pentagon defines overwriting as "the process of replacing information with meaningless data in such a way that meaningful information cannot be recovered from a hard drive." Departments throughout the agency urged Wolfowitz to establish new rules for hard drives so that computer equipment could be made available for donation, the statement said. In fiscal 2000, the agency reports that it gave more than 74,000 pieces of computer equipment originally worth $97 million to school organizations. Where there is concern about particularly sensitive data remaining on hard drives, Defense will still allow the data to be destroyed.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.