New survey reveals agency e-mail flaws

Though agencies rated e-mail as their most cost-effective communications tool, most
federal messaging systems do not meet the White House's business-quality standard, a new
General Services Administration survey found.

The Electronic Messaging Program Management Office's survey takes a sweeping view of
the messaging and mail applications used throughout the government. Interestingly, small
federal agencies reported a wider e-mail user base than the larger departments.

Jack Finley, director of the E-Mail PMO, said his group will use the study as a
benchmark in crafting a blueprint for standard governmentwide electronic messaging

The ultimate goal is to have all agencies using business-quality e-mail, Finley said.
Most agencies need to resolve some cost management and security issues to do so, he said.

Federal messaging systems evolved in a haphazard fashion within most organizations.
Only in recent years have agencies begun to forge enterprisewide mail systems.

As part of that effort, most respondents to the survey said they will establish some
sort of cost recovery program for messaging services. Fifty percent of large federal
organizations and 64 percent of state governments plan to set up cost-recovery mechanisms.
The most common recovery plan is a flat fee assessed for each user at the department or
suborganization level, GSA found.

Improved security also remains a key to enhancing the effectiveness of government
applications involving e-mail. Government organizations rated data integrity and access
control as their most essential needs.

But Finley said not enough agencies are incorporating robust security measures into
their messaging system designs.

''These security requirements, as indicated in the survey, are not being fully met by
existing or planned measures,''Finley said. ''It was surprising how few of these are used
or planned throughout the civilian government.''

In addition to e-mail, most government organizations also noted the World Wide Web high
on their list of essential business tools. Nearly all federal and most state organizations
have built Web sites, the GSA survey found.

The E-Mail PMO conducted the survey of all top-level federal organizations, all state
governments, the 31 largest tribal nations and the four largest U.S. commonwealths.

''The survey allowed us to measure the usage and effectiveness of electronic messaging
across government,''Finley said. ''By understanding where the community is with regards to
e-mail, electronic commerce and electronic data interchange, we can better meet its

The study reviewed the most popular forms of electronic messaging services along with
user upgrade plans and security concerns.

Agencies said e-mail has improved their communications capability, and 95 percent of
all respondents said they expect e-mail to be an integral part of their business
operations within the next two years.

As for overall effectiveness, agencies rated e-mail as the best communications method
followed by faxes, voice mail, telephone conversations, Web exchanges, personal meetings,
regular mail and videoconferencing.

The Web is growing as a government business tool. All large federal organizations and
80 percent of small federal organizations rated it as important to their daily operations.

But on average, the Web is widely available in only 41 percent of government
organizations. Agencies said they expect Web access to grow to more than 80 percent in two

Finley said his group will continue tracking policy developments. But the Office of
Management and Budget is responsible for issuing any mandatory federal Web policy, he

Most large federal agencies have responded to the Web boom by issuing some form of user
policy, Finley said.

GSA posted the survey on the Web at under
the "What's new" menu.

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.