GSA begins management of '.gov' domain names

Federal agencies soon will be required to contact the General Services Administration when they want to register a ".gov" domain name on the Internet or the World Wide Web.

Effective Oct. 1 GSA's Center for Electronic Messaging Technologies (CEMT) will have full management and registration authority of .gov names which establish agencies' identity on the Internet. The transfer should reduce the time it takes agencies to register from the current three weeks to one day said Gary Borgoyne computer specialist at CEMT.

"Before the government was put into the same cycle as industry and we had to wait up to three weeks " he said. "Now we can do it overnight."

CEMT which plans to charge a $50 annual fee for processing .gov domain names is taking over the registration responsibility from the Federal Networking Counsel (FNC) which managed the .gov domain and Network Solutions Inc. which administered the registration under an agreement with the National Science Foundation.

NSF this year bowed out of managing domain names when it chose not to renew an agreement with Network Solutions. NSF officials said it canceled the contract because the Internet is no longer primarily a medium for exchanging information among computer networks in the scientific community. Network Solutions still has responsibility for other domain names including .com and .org.

GSA's assumption of authority over the .gov domain started last August when the FNC asked GSA to help with certain registration requests that were not clear or that fell outside the guidance document used by FNC to approve requests. A task group was formed to transition the management and registration authority of the .gov domain to GSA and to rewrite the guidance document.

Responsibility for the .gov domain is an extension of the registration authority GSA already offers through CEMT which is responsible for promoting governmentwide messaging directories and registrations. It has provided registration services for networking and organizational names since 1990.

Now that GSA has operational and management responsibility for the .gov domain it will be easier to increase the efficient use of electronic communications Borgoyne said. "For example one of the first items we plan to accomplish is to catalog all federal Web sites " he said. "Secondly we plan to certify all federal Web sites by working with the major Web browser companies."

GSA hopes to convince companies to build a capability into their browser applications that would authenticate a government site as an official site. That way agencies could prevent hackers from spoofing government Web sites Borgoyne said.

GSA's responsibilities include updating the .gov Domain Naming Services which changes Internet Protocol address names into numbers so they can be located on the Internet. GSA will also update e-mail addresses any time an agency changes their Internet service provider and will make sure agency Web site addresses are unique.

CEMT will deal with naming and policy issues said Richard Kellett division director for the Emerging IT Applications Division in GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy. "The whole issue of how to assign naming in .gov will be politically sensitive " Kellett said because some agencies and bureaus will want their own domain name. "It's an identity issue " he said.

Ron Hack director of the Office of Systems and Telecommunications Management at the Commerce Department and co-chairman of the Electronic Messaging and Directory (EMAD) working group supports the transfer of responsibility to CEMT. "We feel [CEMT] is closer to the situation and works for and is accountable to agency managers " he said.

EMAD also suggests that the .gov name reflect Cabinet-level names and that they reflect functions instead of agencies - for example passport.gov instead of state.gov the domain name for the State Department which processes passports.

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