Army group inks plan for e-signatures

Army group inks plan for e-signatures

ApproveIt electronic-signature software will work with 2,200 common forms

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

Sometime next year, 40,000 employees of the Army Medical Command will start signing thousands of routine forms electronically.

Once electronic-signature software is in place, Medical Command workers can route documents for approval by e-mail instead of printing out and circulating hard copies.

The command last month signed a $1.5 million enterprisewide, perpetual-use license agreement with Silanis Technology Inc. of Montreal for its ApproveIt electronic-signature software.

Integrated with the Army Medical Department Electronic Forms Support System (AEFSS), ApproveIt will work with more than 2,200 electronic forms that require signatures, said David M. White, AEFSS project manager at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

It's in the mail

Medical Command workers now fill out forms electronically but must print them for signing, White said. Then they route the paper forms by mail, fax or overnight delivery.

The enterprisewide agreement covers all workers at the command's 110 worldwide locations. 'At some point everybody needs to sign off on something,' Silanis worldwide sales director Lynne Boyd said.

AEFSS officials selected ApproveIt because the software works with forms created in other applications the command uses, including Microsoft Office and JetForm FormFlow from JetForm Corp. of Ottawa, White said. The command is moving to e-signatures to comply with the Government Paperwork Elimination Act and to become more efficient and cost-effective, he said.

Types of forms that will get e-signatures include hospital patient admissions, equipment and service purchases, and personnel requests.

ApproveIt allows for sectional signing, in which multiple signatures secure different portions of a single form, White said. That was important to the command because, for some digitally signed documents, an alteration such as a second signature would invalidate the first signature.

'More than 80 percent of all documents that require signatures require multiple signatures,' Boyd said.

The Medical Command will deploy the software on its PCs and servers next spring, White said. ApproveIt users will initialize their digital signatures by signing their names on the ePad from Interlink Electronics Inc. of Camarillo, Calif.

Then, when they sign documents with their passwords, ApproveIt will place images of their signatures on the forms, while the software handles the encryption behind the scenes [GCN, Aug. 2, 1999, Page 24, and GCN, July 10, Page 1].

Meanwhile, White's team at the Medical Command must enable each of the 2,200 forms to accept electronic signatures.

'That's going to take the longest,' he said, because the owners and creators of the forms within the command, the Army Publishing Agency and other DOD agencies must first give their permission for the change.

Not to worry

ApproveIt lets users handwrite signatures each time they sign documents or just once. The Medical Command chose to capture the signatures once and not to activate ApproveIt's biometrics feature, White said, because signing documents with passwords will be enough of a cultural change for employees.

'You have to somehow reduce the fear factor,' White said. Some employees worry that their electronic signatures might be misused, just as people worry that their signed credit card slips will fall into the wrong hands.

Before signing the license agreement, Medical Command officials questioned whether they needed to get approval from DOD's public-key infrastructure programs.

David Borland, the Army's deputy chief information officer, wrote Silanis a letter saying that the command did not need the PKI program's approval to install the software, White said.

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