The Pentagon's official online comment system has been offline for more than a month for anyone not using a Defense Department computer, officials confirmed today.
The Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) site is managed by the Defense Information System Agency (DISA), which runs the Pentagon's enterprise information infrastructure.
The military services and agencies use the comment system to collect user feedback and complaints on every aspect of military life, including military hospitals, commissaries and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) programs. Feedback forms are available for thousands of programs specific to each base across the military.
But the system has been down Pentagon-wide for all users outside the Defense Department's network since March 21, Russell Goemaere, a DISA spokesman, confirmed today.
Only ".mil" users are currently able to access the system. An announcement about the outage for non-DoD users is posted on the ICE website, but only those who can successfully access the site on the DoD network are able to see it.
"Currently ICE is only available to managers and customers on .mil networks. It cannot be accessed on personal computers or other devices not on a .mil network," the announcement said. "DISA is working on resolving this issue as quickly as possible."
Users attempting to access from any civilian network see only a webpage time-out or a server error notice.
Officials did not know when the system will be restored. DISA has not released any official statements notifying users of the problem or an estimated fix date.
Statistics weren't immediately available on how many ICE comments are received monthly from outside the DoD network.
But Army officials last year reported in a release that comments about their Installation Management Command programs, which include all Army MWR programs and child care centers used by family members at bases worldwide, make up over 55 percent of the DoD's ICE
feedback, with more than 4.2 million comments overall.
"Customer comments are a critical component in helping the command prioritize and refocus installation services and support to meet changing requirements," that release said.
Military families have long been urged by officials to use ICE to both give feedback and leave their contact information so issues can be fixed and users can receive follow-up.
But the system also serves a separate purpose, officials said at the time: justifying program budgets. Customer feedback can help officials make a case to continue funding for specific programs or events, they said.
"ICE is a good indication of what programs mean the most to the customers which is important data in an operating environment with limited resources," Army IMCOM Commander Lt. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl said in the release last year.
DISA has been targeted for elimination by House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican, who wants to use the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act to cut it and six other civilian-run Pentagon agencies that currently make up what is known as the "Fourth Estate." Doing so could save the DoD $25 billion.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at email@example.com.