Army to Gates: Halt the free software

Microsoft has been mailing free copies of its pricey Office productivity software to government employees, but CNET News.com has learned that at least two federal agencies are warning recipients to return the gifts or risk violating federal ethics policies.

Since the launch of Office 2003 last year, Microsoft has given out tens of thousands of free copies of its flagship software, which retails for about $500, to workers at its biggest customers. The giveaway was expanded to government workers this year, but ethics offices at the Department of the Interior and Department of Defense have said the offers constitute unauthorized gifts and must be returned. The Department of the Army went a step further, calling on Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates to stop sending the software to Army personnel.

"We ask that you cease immediately the mailing of free software, and other types of gifts, to the Department of the Army personnel," Deputy General Counsel Matt Reres said in a Feb. 19 letter seen by CNET News.com. "Your offer of free software places our employees and soldiers in jeopardy of unknowingly committing a violation of the ethics rules and regulations to which they have taken an oath to uphold."

News source: C|Net News.com

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