State and USIA integrate their e-mail for overseas offices

The U.S. Information Agency and the State Department in the next few
months will roll out a common e-mail system that will serve as a model for all USIA and
State overseas offices.

“E-mail historically has been unreliable and slow between the two agencies,”
said Jonathan Spalter, USIA’s associate director for information and its chief
information officer. “The e-mail system is an important first step that shows federal
agencies can work together.”

Initially, USIA and State will test the integrated mail system at one embassy and one
USIA mission.

Both USIA and State use Microsoft Exchange for e-mail now. The two agencies have
assembled a workgroup to consider other e-mail packages but most likely the pair will
stick with Exchange, Spalter said.

The agencies laid the groundwork for the joint use of hardware and software when State
and USIA officials recently signed the Cooperative Information Technology Architecture
agreement. The two agencies worked out the agreement at the first meeting of the Foreign
Affairs CIO Council.

“We need to start thinking about how we can use information technology for a new
kind of diplomacy for the 21st century that improves service and saves money,”
Spalter said.

USIA has 193 missions around the world that disseminate information about U.S.
government policies. Many State embassies house USIA offices, but the two could not
communicate electronically because of security reasons, Spalter said.

“The Intra-Post E-mail Enhancement project will create an e-mail system that can
resolve information assurance and technical issues that currently inhibit free and
efficient transmission of e-mail,” Spalter said. “By implementing a more direct
e-mail service, work processes will improve as a result of communicating more quickly and
with fewer errors.”

The new Foreign Affairs CIO Council spawned CITA, Spalter said.

“When I was named USIA CIO [last] summer, I thought it was extremely important
that the CIO community give thought to international telecommunications and information
issues that harmonize efficiency,” Spalter said.

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