Powell pitches IT revolution

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"Net diplomacy"

Secretary of State Colin Powell Wednesday turned a traditional Q&A on foreign policy into a pitch for increased funding for resources, including information technology aimed at revolutionizing diplomacy.

During his first appearance before the House International Relations Committee, Powell said that President Bush's fiscal 2002 budget "provides funds for modernizing—and in some cases acquiring for the first time—the required information technology for the conduct of foreign affairs."

"These dollars will allow us to modernize our secure local-area network capability, including e-mail and word processing," Powell said in a statement included in the committee record. "Likewise, they will allow us to open access channels to the Internet so that our people can take full advantage of this enormously important new means of communication and research."

The technology, according to Powell, "has the potential to revolutionize the way we do business."

Since being confirmed as secretary of State in January, Powell has driven home the need for beefing up State's IT capabilities. Plans call for an overhaul of how information is managed and communicated by the State Department and other government agencies and departments with an overseas presence.

In February, State's chief information officer, Fernando Burbano, briefed Powell on a program to link all agencies with an overseas presence. The program will create a single knowledge management and information center that could be accessed by each agency.

In his statement Wednesday, Powell detailed his vision of IT-strengthened embassies and consulates:

Officials would be able to go online to get the latest newspapers and periodicals via State's Foreign Broadcast Information Service, instead of waiting to receive the material in bound copies by courier or mail. Similarly, officials would all have e-mail and the ability to query any subject matter expert in State's system.

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