Treasury e-mail pilot to take on DMS, GSA

The Treasury Department angling for a central role in the federal electronic messaging hierarchy is looking to establish a $1 million multiple-agency pilot to offer messaging services governmentwide through its Treasury Communications System (TCS).

With its proposal Treasury is challenging the General Services Administration's Electronic Messaging Program Management Office which is tasked with establishing the governmentwide electronic messaging requirements for civilian agencies including building the governmentwide X.500 directory.

Treasury's offering also would compete with the Defense Message System a secure e-mail system offered as a governmentwide solution by the Defense Department. In addition there could be some overlap with GSA's FTS 2000 program which offers basic electronic messaging services but is planning to beef up its electronic messaging electronic commerce and Internet offerings.

"With all these options for electronic messaging users [get] a taste of what it will be like under post-FTS 2000 with increased competition and where agencies can make a choice" from a wide selection of providers said Warren Suss a telecommunications analyst. "There will be serious competition for agency e-mail business [and] Treasury will compete with GSA and DMS."

Treasury submitted its proposal for the pilot project to GSA's Innovation Fund Subgroup of the Interagency Management Council which already has earmarked money for the effort. IMC is a group of telecommunications experts from federal agencies that also acts as a board of governors for FTS 2000 operations.

IMC has delayed its decision on funding until GSA and Treasury can agree on which agency has responsibility for what said David Bittenbender chairman of IMC and director of the telecommunications services staff at the Justice Department.

"There is also a concern on the part of IMC members that the function proposed by Treasury might be better done by industry than government " he said.

A meeting this month between Treasury telecommunications chief James Flyzik FTS 2000 commissioner Bob Woods and Office of Management and Budget IT policy head Bruce McConnell will address the issue.

The Role of Competitor

"Treasury is setting themselves up in the long term as a competitor but that is the nature of government these days. FTS is ready for the competition " said John Okay FTS' deputy commissioner. Okay added that he sees Treasury competing with DMS "as we would."

Competition is good because it provides multiple sources and more options for users said Alan Proctor chief information officer at the Federal Trade Commission and an IMC member. "We shouldn't assume that GSA will be a less good provider than any other agency in the government " he said.

DMS vendors welcomed the competition from Treasury - as long as Treasury's offerings are DMS-compliant.

"It appears Treasury is stepping up to the challenge of civilian agencies the same way DISA did for DOD " said David Dunlap director of marketing at Enterprise Solutions Ltd. a vendor on the DMS contract held by Lockheed Martin Federal Systems. "Someone needs to be responsible for the overall infrastructure to make e-mail and electronic commerce interoperate."

Gerald Douglas director of advanced programs for DMS at Lockheed Martin said the company has had discussions with many civilian agencies including the Justice Commerce and Energy departments and the Internal Revenue Service all of which expressed interest in DMS. The governmentwide messaging guidelines for the civilian agencies are based upon DMS which is open to the rest of the government he pointed out.

If Treasury is offering services similar to DMS "then they're a viable competitor " Douglas said. He added that his concern is whether Treasury can provide interoperability across various e-mail systems and manage a huge directory. DMS' directory is sized to handle 2 million users he said.

Some disagree with Treasury's plan.

"I think it's a false start for government " said Steve LeCompte vice president of IDC Government Market Services. "You don't want to build an infrastructure on a government-owned system. You want to look to standard product offerings such as those you would get from telecommunications companies and new transaction services over the Internet."

However Treasury argues that its proposal is complementary to what DMS and FTS 2000 are doing."We saw an opportunity to expand the services we're putting into place for Treasury - in terms of customer base and additional messaging services - for the larger community " said Brian Carman director of the network program at Treasury. "We took the opportunity to respond with a proposal to the Innovation Fund."

The proposal is an effort to "move government forward to where we can do business electronically " Carman said. "Most information [that] needs to be transmitted will be done around message-based services. We felt we could also help on an interagency basis with TCS and do this."

TCS gives Treasury an opportunity "to say to the agencies we work with that we have this vehicle we can work together to use " Carman said. "Because of the range of Treasury missions we have [relationships] with almost every federal agency. We proposed to use TCS as a model for interagency servicing."

Treasury wants to provide a number of messaging services to other government agencies on a pilot basis at first but eventually plans to charge a fee for them after the initial $1 million in funding runs out.

The services Treasury plans to offer include: mail translation between proprietary and standards-based systems internetwork gateway services so agencies can route messages to X.400 systems or the Internet X.500 directory services that will help agencies link to a governmentwide root directory electronic commerce services based upon X.435 routing electronic data over the Internet or interconnecting with value-added networks and transport services via TCS.

TCS a $425 million contract won by TRW Inc. last year will provide the networking technology to support an evolving set of applications at Treasury ranging from e-mail and electronic commerce to videoconferencing.

It also is intended to tie together other government agencies that share Treasury's law enforcement tax collection and money-disbursing duties by giving them direct access to the network.

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