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Grassley: National Science Foundation porn problem hasn't been solved

By Rachel Weiner

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has restarted his campaign against porn-watching at the National Science Foundation. Politico reports:

The Iowa Republican sent a letter to agency leaders this week seeking answers after a whistleblower informed his office that NSF has failed to crack down on employees caught accessing pornography on their work computers.


In the letter obtained by POLITICO, Grassley asks the agency to verify the confidential source’s litany of allegations – including charges that the NSF’s technology to block pornography has manifestly failed, that employees have devised ways around those impasses by sharing illicit photos on Microsoft PowerPoint, and that no infrastructure exists to hold employees accountable for their misdeeds.

In 2009, Grassley launched a congressional probe of the NSF after the agency's innocuous-sounding “Semiannual Report to Congress" revealed that some employees were spending a significant portion of the workday watching porn.

Grassley was also involved in the investigation of dozens of employees at the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC inspector general conducted 33 probes of employees, 31 of which occurred in the last two and a half years.

By Rachel Weiner  | August 6, 2010; 10:32 AM ET
Categories:  44: Obama's Washington, Agencies and Departments  
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Comments

How does an agency figure out that its so-called "workers" are sending porn by powerpoint and spending most of their days watching porn at work without having a mechanism to fire them? Is it racist to expect better?

Posted by: jiji1 | August 6, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I was an IT Contractor from another company working at NSF in the late 1990s and I can tell you it was DISGUSTING. I had never met a bunch of govt workers that did everything in that building, BUT WORK.

We spent countless hours trying to repair viruses and other computer problems from their little porno exploits on the web. Problem is we could never complain about it, as we didn't want to lose the contract.

Pretty sick stuff and a waste of taxpayer money. Glad I left the company and the contract was not renewed later on.

steve

Posted by: millertek | August 6, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Couple of comments:

(1) Every organization with more than a handful of employees will have at least a few employees who visit illicit web sites at work, or try to go to strip clubs on company expense accounts (examples might include Congress, or the Republican National Committee). The issue should not be, "does this happen at all" but rather "is the problem pervasive" and "are steps being taken to address the problem."

(2) As a former employee of the National Science Foundation I am deeply offended by the implication that NSF employees have a poor work ethic. In my experience, I have never seen a more dedicated, hard-working staff than my colleagues at NSF.

(3) jiji1 writes, "Is it racist to expect better?" No, but it is racist to assume that the offending employees are black.

(4) millertek claims to have been a tech contractor who was offended by having to "repair viruses and other computer problems from their little porno exploits on the web." As a former CIO, I can say with some certainty that (a) it is not always possible to determine what triggered a virus infestation, but (b) most malware infestations of the late 1990s were accompanied, after the fact, by lots of porno injected by the malware.

As for millertek's righteousness towards federal workers, I can also say with certainty that in my experience outside contractors are much more likely to bring viruses, malware, and porno into an organization than are regular employees.

Posted by: RJR8222 | August 6, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

The days when every lobbyist had its own federal agency should be over. Consolidate all these little agencies. Merge NSF, NEH and NEA into the U.S. DoEd and continue their mission and programs but cut the overhead.

Posted by: CesarSozei | August 7, 2010 1:58 AM | Report abuse

More nonsense, this time from CesarSozei

NSF was not created to satisfy lobbyists. NSF was created immediately after the World War II because it was recognized that science had won the war. Radar, proximity fuses, high altitude pressurized bombers, and nuclear weapons provided the edge necessary for victory. With that recognition came the idea that it would be wise for government to support science to enhance national security.

Also, NSF is staffed with PhD level scientists who have the expertise necessary to help determine what proposals are scientifically worthy of support.

The idea of merging NSF with NEH and NEA in order to "cut the overhead" makes no sense, unless you think that efficiencies would somehow be achieved by having artists review scientific proposals and scientists evaluate symphony orchestras.

To ensure that federal funding is awarded to the most deserving proposals, professional review is required. If that feels like too much wasteful overhead (but the mission should be preserved), why not just implement a lottery where each applicant submits a well-reasoned proposal AND buys a one-dollar ticket. The winners could then be chosen at random (with negligible overhead cost). If the applicant comes up with a lucky powerball, so much the better - give them twice the support.

Posted by: RJR8222 | August 7, 2010 3:06 AM | Report abuse

More arrogance and nonsense, this time from RJR8222. The goal isn't to merge NSF with NEH and NEA but to merge NSF, NEH, NEA and other small similar agencies with DoEd.

While the original "goal" of NSF may have been one thing (evidence, please?), the bottom line is that it shifted from improving American science to satisfying the lobbyists from colleges, universities, and other corporations long ago. The debates of 1977-79 are on the record. The NSF "customers" felt more comfortable with their pork-sharing connections of NSF than "risking" any type of change.

In the big scheme of things within the Federal gov't, professional, peer-reviewed grant-making is not expensive at all. That is not the point. "PhD level scientists" are pretty smart and flexible and can do the same work regardless of what agency in which they happen to be working.

What is so costly & expensive is that you have all these little research/grantmaking agencies, each with their own HR, their own accounting/financial management, their own IT, their own information security, their own, differing postsec "policy" gurus, their own auditors/inspectors, their own politically-appointed deadwood, and their own share of "retired in place" staff.

Keep the peer-review expertise in the new agency. Consolidate/reduce the overhead. More money can then go to research and grants and less money to administration.

Posted by: CesarSozei | August 8, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

In Response to comments by RJR - while I certainly respect your opinions:

"(4) millertek claims to have been a tech contractor who was offended by having to "repair viruses and other computer problems from their little porno exploits on the web." As a former CIO, I can say with some certainty that (a) it is not always possible to determine what triggered a virus infestation, but (b) most malware infestations of the late 1990s were accompanied, after the fact, by lots of porno injected by the malware.

As for millertek's righteousness towards federal workers, I can also say with certainty that in my experience outside contractors are much more likely to bring viruses, malware, and porno into an organization than are regular employees."

My response -

In this particular case, NSF workers WERE getting viruses via malware from pornography websites as we could properly trace those sources. Though one can say outside contractors can be a source in general, since we are discussing NSF specifically in this case, I can tell you NSF WAS the SOURCE and not it's contractors. I cannot speak for other contractors and govt agencies.

I have the highest respect for govt workers who do their jobs. It was not my intention to stereotype govt workers in my comment - I was referring mainly to those at NSF who's many machines had to be cleaned up by our staff those several years ago.

sincerely,

steve

Posted by: millertek | August 9, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

RJR8222, you racist pig, why would you assume the employees are black? Because their boss is? Racist filth, be gone with you.

Posted by: jiji1 | August 9, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Ignorance is not a good excuse for having one's own facts, or distorting the meaning of previous statements.

Posted by: kagni | August 10, 2010 12:56 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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