Are Systems Access Restrictions Marginalizing Reservists and Guardsmen?

By Sergeant Rick

Our Active Component brethren take having access to a Department of Defense (DOD) computer for granted. Other than being on leave, active troops frequently have access to DOD systems in the field! As such, it only comes naturally for Pentagon J6 or DISA officials to haphazardly hand down systems access policies with Active soldiers in mind, seemingly by fiat. Platforms such as ATTRS, MOBCOP, and Tour of Duty are now restricted to DOD computers alone – and it seems like even more basic functions are headed that way as well, such as taking the pre-Periodic Health Assessment survey and signing clothing records.  Unfortunately, these restrictions are having the unintended consequence of hurting reserve component soldiers – major users of them all!

In looking at the current IT policies surrounding ATTRS, MOBCOP, and Tour of Duty, do Active-centric policies affecting systems Reserve soldiers use put Reservists at a disadvantage? It would be hard to argue they don’t – Reservists and Guardsmen are typically at a site with DOD computer systems a mere two days per month and frequently live more than 100 miles away. How can Reserve troops see upcoming BLC, ALC, or other vital, required course sessions without access to ATTRS? How can reserve individuals use Tour of Duty to learn about upcoming deployment, mobilization, training exercise, and operational support opportunities if the very portal built to advertise, recruit, and assess volunteers bars access to its very customer base except when they’re at a DOD computer at their armory or reserve center? 

The need for cybersecurity and operational security is significant, but must be juxtaposed and balanced with the needs of these systems’ end users.

What do you think? Does restricting access to the systems a reserve component soldier needs to advance his or her career via NC/OES or deployments make sense? Shouldn’t the Reservist or Guardsman’s user experience and access needs drive the systems’ security policies? Your thoughts and opportunities for improvement are welcome. Are there other systems you can’t access at home as a Reserve Component soldier?



About the Author: Sergeant Rick is a Reservist from New England and Tweets as @PlunkettPrime


Cover image: The U.S. Army’s ‘Cyber Center of Excellence’, Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga., hosted a multi-service ‘NetWar’ to show, and build, cyber Warrior capabilities. Georgia Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tracy J. Smith.

14 Replies to “Are Systems Access Restrictions Marginalizing Reservists and Guardsmen?”

  1. Of course it does. We had multiple computers that never seemed to work. Resulting in missed deadlines, extended working hours or just saying F*** it and not doing it. It’s hard enough to get Soldiers to to do a PHA on their own time, much less getting it done at drill.

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    1. I am a Signal Reserve Officer and agree that this is a problem. There is a work around I stumbled upon but have not verified. https://militarycac.com/rap.htmwill take you to the steps needed to access an ARNet from a personal computer anywhere. I usedthe same system when I worked in Cadet Command and it is a life saver.

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      1. Agreed !

        Many of us don’t have access even on drill weekends.

        Let’s not even mention SIPR access and the mandatory 30-45 days access or your access restricted.

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    2. Tour of duty and STM’s frequently don’t work even on DOD computers. On several occasions I’ve given up trying to get specific pay checks because the pay system took longer to access than any hourly rate.

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  2. It does not start with systems permissions. It starts with processes and procedures built to focus only on one part of the force to the exclusion or, or without due consideration toward, other parts of it.

    In the quest to keep things “the same” or “equal to” the Active force, we cause the Reserve Component to electronically contort themselves in order to fit into the same box – even though their time and capabilities are necessarily limited.

    The technical solutions therefore are the symptom of the larger, process-driven, problem.

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  3. Additionally, on those two days a month there’s usually a healthy competition to get onto those available computers. And the ones that lower enlisted can access are often older, and managed remotely by 9-5er civilians or AGR types in another unit. Considering that AR and NG soldiers actually make up a majority of the US ARMY, they are underrepresented and under-served in most of the policy making. While the ‘big Army” is at fault here, so is the Reserve Component leadership, after all there are 52 TAGS and 52 state/territory SMAJs who aren’t making themselves heard

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  4. System access policies are written primarily by civilians working with/for the Active Army, then reviewed, approved and promulgated by the Active Army leadership with a complete disregard for the Reserve Components. These policies are often driven by paranoia compounded by prejudice and ignorance. The system security ‘experts’ writing these policies rarely have any knowledge or experience with RC units. In too many cases, Active Army leaders honestly do believe these policies are reasonable, because they “know” that everyone has access to an Army computer whenever they need it.

    The problem isn’t limited to system access policies, you can find examples across every kind of policy that supposedly applies “equally” to AC & RC. The “Active” force ignoring the Reserve Components is nothing new – it has been that way since the creation of the Guard and Reserves. Sometimes the root of the problem is deliberate parochialism, but far more often the root of the problem lies in ignorance and indifference.

    Perhaps once there was an excuse for the Active Army leadership to ignore the Reserve Component, but those days are long gone. At recent OPTEMPO rates, the “Active” Army would totally implode without the RC (especially the National Guard). Look at the results of recent national and international military competitions, see how many have been won by National Guard units, outperforming the best the Active Army has (admittedly neither the AC nor RC units participating in such competitions are really typical of their component, but clearly the performance gap between AC and RC isn’t as one-sided as most AC soldiers would like to claim.)

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  5. Just another example of how the Active-duty minority calls the tune for the RC compos majority. Same kind of thing happened back in the early 2000s when the Army restricted the ability to forward AKO email only to other .mil addresses. There was an online survey, that most RC guys never saw, that determined that the impact would be minimal. They just stopped seeing Army emails after the policy went into effect.

    Crazy that this divide still exists.

    Spent 12 years as a AC guy followed by 18 years in the USAR. Cannot even guess the number of times the issue of having to “dance” to the AC’s tune.

    Would have thought that having the Chief of the National Guard up at the 4-star table was going to help address this. So far, not so much.

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    1. Don’t forget that the vast vast majority of the NG leadership/staff are full time and not M-Day, so it doesn’t register on a day to day level.

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  6. Finding a way to deliver an army computer to every RC solider is not a technical problem and can even be done at a low cost while security is maintained. Through cloud computing models

    They just have to want to.

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  7. Yes, it also marginalizes active duty personnel on TDY who don’t have a government issue laptop to take with them.

    But…those domains were put into internal DODIN access for a reason. And the reason is security, because none of those domains were built with the security necessary to have put them public facing in the first place.

    It’s crappy, those systems became mission critical and access was restricted. But just like we can’t use thumb drives anymore, the policy exists because it has been exploited.

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  8. The USAR has a cloud based computing solution currently available, it just requires a bit of patients and some knowledge of whats going on. I hear it from Soldiers often enough, I cant do my DL/NCOER/PHA etc, the computers are down, don’t want to wait in line, etc. However, CITRIX is a viable alternative to delivering computers to reservist. I utilized it while deployed to keep my USAR credentials active.

    The systems and capability are out there, I just find that people don’t know.

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