State scraps pilot for international communications

The State Department recently decided to end a knowledge management pilot that the department's inspector general said was poorly planned and implemented.

The department's IRM Bureau independently reached the same conclusion and decided to merge the Foreign Affairs Systems Integration project with another messaging project, the State Message Archive and Retrieval Toolset.

The IG's report, The Foreign Affairs Systems Integration Project Needs Redirection, criticized the implementation of FASI's Interagency Collaboration Zone, a part of the pilot that let users from various foreign-affairs agencies collaborate, share e-mail and use a common directory.

The department rolled out FASI in Washington, Mexico and India in mid-2002. 'However, poor timing, lagging ICZ content management, IT resource constraints and unresolved system and technical problems ... hindered efforts to get pilot users trained, certified and committed to using the system,' the report said.

The IG said the schedule for the pilot had been compressed because of unexpected delays, 'leaving a diminished basis for a senior management decision regarding global ICZ deployment.'

Several agencies were reluctant to use FASI's knowledge management tools because of officials' concerns about losing control of their data, the report noted. Law enforcement agencies, for example, were 'concerned that different agencies had varying definitions of what was 'sensitive' and what was not. They feared that other agencies might not safeguard their information in the manner they deemed appropriate,' the IG report said.

The pilot encountered technical problems such as the installation of FASI smart-card readers in the Mexico City embassy causing brown or faded screens on desktop PCs, according to the report.

Cooperation helps

The report said more vigorous coordination of FASI across agencies would help overcome cultural barriers to using the system for interagency collaboration.

A State spokeswoman said the SMART program would involve creating a messaging system over the next two years that will be much more flexible and capable than State's existing system based on a decades-old tradition of telegrams.

State awarded contracts worth $130,000 to teams led by Accenture LLP of Chicago, Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego and SRA International Inc. of Fairfax, Va., for the prototype phase of FASI. Congress provided State with $17 million to fund the pilot phase.

State CIO Fernando Burbano told the IG office that the department's systems organization had decided to overhaul FASI after conducting its own review of the project.

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