Treasury bureaus' services go to Web

Treasury bureaus' services go to Web

Two sites will handle financial transactions between government, citizens

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

Two Treasury Department bureaus are cozying up to the Web for financial transactions.

The department touted the online services developed by the Bureau of Public Debt and the Financial Management Service at a briefing last month.

'We have invested much time and many resources to thinking about how we can adjust the way the government conducts its business to adapt to rapid advances in information technology,' deputy Treasury secretary Stuart E. Eizenstat said.

FMS' new initiative, Pay.gov, attempts to make the federal government more accessible and consumer-friendly, he said.

FMS is ironing out the technical architecture for Pay.gov, which will be a transactional Web site for government payments.

Just a start

Development began four months ago. FMS plans to launch the site by late October and expects it to handle 80 million government transactions totaling $125 billion annually.

A team of four technical and two program staff members streamlined FMS' paper-intensive financial transactions into a suite of software applications'including all the specifications requested by FMS' customer agencies, said Gary Grippo, electronic-commerce director for the service.

FMS plans to procure services for programming and site development, Grippo said. Currently, however, his staff performs most of the technical work and consults with a handful of security and database experts. Grippo said development costs for Pay.gov would total $3 million.

The suite includes authentication, financial transactions, and legacy reporting functions. FMS reviewed its proposed suite with banking institutions and other agencies.

The site will initially offer core functions to a handful of agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

FMS promised ATF it would offer enhanced financial transaction capabilities last fall, Grippo said. ATF plans to use the Web site to process excise tax collections from about 3,000 companies, Grippo said.

INS and NOAA want to use the site for financial transactions with their vendors.

Grippo said FMS most likely would use Sun Microsystems Enterprise JavaBeans to set up the Web site, which will be written in Java. FMS programmers also will use the Joint Database Connectivity application program interface specification.

FMS will host the site on a cluster of servers, Grippo said. Nailing down system specifications, however, could prove to be a daunting task because the application must support interfaces with numerous private- and public-sector systems, he said.

The Bureau of Public Debt in October deployed a state and local government securities system called the Special Purpose Security System.

The system handles large securities transactions for about 400 banks and their state and local government customers around the country.

The system integrates a number of applications previously scattered across several mainframe systems, said Cindy Springer, the bureau's chief information officer.

System development

The bureau began in-house development of the system in late 1998, using PowerBuilder 5 from Sybase Inc., said Kim Titus, supervisory computer specialist in the bureau's Office of Information Technology.

The bureau turned off the old mainframe systems last October after running the new and old systems in parallel for about six weeks, Springer said.

An IBM mainframe running a DB2 database under OS/390 still maintains payment information transmitted from FMS' Automated Clearing House system. All other information for the program is stored in a Microsoft SQL Server 6.5 database running under Microsoft Windows NT on a PC server.

The bureau built the Web interface, SLGSafe'pronounced 'slug safe.' It used Sun Java Development Kit Version 1.1.6.

The bureau issues digital certificates for authentication to authorized users.

Since December, 10 banks have been using SLGSafe, and the system has handled more than $550 million in securities transactions.

The bureau will expand the number of banks enrolled over the next three years, Springer said.

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