Energy inks e-signature plan

In the name of e-government, the Energy Department has procured and licensed digital signature technology for governmentwide use.

DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham demonstrated the tool at a ceremony Oct. 16, stamping his personal e-signature on the department's e-Government Strategic Action Plan: A Road Map for Delivering Services.

Abraham presented the plan to Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels. Key elements include a new departmental Web presence, streamlined grant processing and improved information technology security.

"Technology is an important tool," Abraham said. "It's really the backbone of DOE."

For example, in February Abraham digitally signed the department's recommendation on a proposal to make Yucca Mountain the nation's nuclear waste repository. By submitting the information electronically — including thousands of pages of supporting documents -- the department saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in printing and distribution costs, according to Abraham.

Major motivators behind the e-signature technology are the Government Paperwork Reduction Act and the OMB's e-government strategy of 'build it once, use it multiple times," officials said.

"This is a very important breakthrough," Daniels said. "You have led the way here."

DOE developed the e-signature tool, an Adobe System Inc. Acrobat plug-in, along with with Entrust CygnaCom. Agencies that have the company's public key infrastructure, including the Treasury and State departments, can use it to digitally sign and verify documents made with Adobe software. Those without the corresponding PKI can use it to verify the documents, but not sign them..

"The idea is distribution of digitally signed documents," said Isadore Schoen, vice president and director of services at Entrust CygnaCom.

DOE, for instance, is already attaching e-signatures to congressional testimony and to some of the information it shares with the public, according to Schoen.

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