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Can an employee of The Navy Department use navy.mil to send and receive personal messages outside of the network?

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It depends on the official Navy and individual Command policy, but in general yes, they are permitted for family contacts and certain others. The Navy contracts with thousands of individual businesses to acquire its hardware, and many of its members also have good or close relationships with the people they work with. Having worked at CNO at the Pentagon while in the Naval Reserve and as a DoD QA Representive for Defense Acquisition on Navy and NASA programs, I can tell you that to stop such traffic would be detrimental to the overall effort of the acquisition process. Not everything can be done through official channels, and personal contacts are one way things get done. Also, the definition of "personal messages" can be vague if the message is sent to someone outside the network who is both a friend and business associate as well. It is difficult in such situations to penalize a person for contacting a friend who can help with the job he is tasked to perform. We all have a network of contacts for any job we do, and the Navy is no different. For example, former Navy officers working in the private sector could be deemed "personal contacts" for message purposes, but are often vital as an information source for programs they once worked on.

The regulations do have limits though - family contacts are permitted, but stuff like social networking is prohibited. All military branches realize that their personnel are human and not robots, and treat them as such. To completely deny such message is both impossible and would lead to a serious personnel morale problem, if not a loss of qualified personnel itself. No one likes to work in a totally prohibitive environment, but everyone knows the rules and what penalties are for severe infractions.
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