Homeland e-mail links ready

When the Homeland Security Department officially comes into being Jan. 24, 2003, the basic technologies to connect all its workers will be in place, said Steve Cooper, chief information officer at the Office of Homeland Security.

A group of designers from the agencies and organizations that will be moving into the department have created a single virtual e-mail directory that will direct all incoming messages to the appropriate existing agency e-mail systems and send out all e-mails with a "username@dhs.gov" address, Cooper said in an interview Dec. 13.

Testing of the task group's common Lightweight Directory Access Protocol directory will begin soon after Jan. 1 so that it can go live Jan. 24, Cooper said.

Discussions are ongoing about whether employees at the larger, intact agencies -- the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration and the Secret Service -- will get a slightly different address, such as "username@tsa.dhs.gov," he said.

Cooper and other officials in the Office of Homeland Security have long said that e-mail and an internal Web portal are among the new department's most important systems to have running on Day One.

The external portal will be built using TSA's platform, Cooper said. But the internal portal, or intranet, initially will be an interim solution that takes pieces from many existing portals, he said. The task group is preparing this temporary portal while developing recommendations for a permanent one, he said.

For now, all of this is being done with only the funding that the agencies involved are donating. However, following the passage of the Homeland Security Act last month, the Office of Management and Budget has been working to gather the approximately $140 million in appropriations scattered throughout the bill.

The final figure will not be determined until Cooper's office figures out how much more can be transferred from existing agencies now that the department is official. However, the Office of Homeland Security is asking for $25 million to $50 million out of that $140 million to use on the e-mail directory and portals, Cooper said.

Most of that money likely will be used for laying lines and cables and paying new employees to run the offices, he said.

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