Agencies draft own plansx

Despite the lack of an electronic messaging policy from the Office of Management and Budget that has been delayed indefinitely, most agencies have drafted their own and are moving ahead with implementation of their e-mail systems.

Jack Finley, program manager for the General Services Administration's Center for Electronic Messaging Technologies, said his group plans to issue guidelines this summer that will be based on agencies' own policy documents—detailing security, privacy and records management issues associated with e-mail—as well as the results of a recently distributed governmentwide survey on messaging and Internet usage.

Late last year OMB said it would not issue an e-mail bulletin that would have told agencies to plan and set aside money for installing e-mail systems. Instead, OMB said Finley's group had sufficiently addressed the issue with a memorandum it sent to senior officials.

Some of the agencies that have already drafted their own e-mail policies include the Commerce Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, the State Department, the Agriculture Department and the Social Security Administration.

"I have no reason to believe [OMB] will issue an e-mail policy," said Neil Stillman, deputy assistant secretary for information resources management at HHS. "We're trying to put through the Office of the Secretary a policy for the department. Some agencies have issued their own.

"Unfortunately, this is what the E-mail Task Force tried to prevent," he said.

"We've long had an e-mail policy, but it's not as broad in scope as what OMB would do," said Ron Hack, director of the Office of Systems and Telecommunications Management at Commerce.

"We're reviewing the policy now to see if we want to address the Internet. We're hoping that OMB would issue a policy that would promote it a little more so that agency heads can say, `I do need to put some money into [e-mail development].' "

State put its policy in place last year "because we felt that we were vulnerable not having one," said Frank Machak, managing director for information services at State. He said that having a governmentwide policy would make it easier to implement a program and get broad participation.

"A policy not being issued has not stopped implementation," said Lori Renner, branch manager for network services at the USDA. "But we don't want to get too far ahead with our policy" if an OMB policy were to be issued.

Bruce McConnell, director of OMB's Information Policy Branch, said OMB is still working on drafting a policy, but he could give no time line for its release. The policy was said to be in final clearance at OMB more than a year ago, although McConnell insisted this was not the case.

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