The Department of State is pleased to deliver the annual report on eGov Act Implementation as required by Public Law 107-347 (E-Government Act of 2002). The report outlines how the Department uses information technologies (IT) to deliver services to constituents – citizens, businesses, other governments, nongovernmental organizations, and their employees – faster, cheaper, and more effectively.
This report has three sections. Section 1 highlights the Department of State’s implementation of the Act and a description of the Post Administrative Software Suite (PASS) to meet the challenge of controlling costs and risks to support personnel at overseas posts while maintaining or improving the quality of support services. Section 2 describes the Department’s process for determining which information is posted to the Internet and Section 3 discusses improvements in dissemination and public access to government information.
SECTION 1 – Brief overview of the Department of State’s implementation of the Act including a description of an internal agency-specific E-Government initiative.
"The U.S. State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Strategic Plan, Fiscal Years 2004 - 2009" at http://www.state.gov/s/d/rm/rls/dosstrat/2004/ contains a goal to Strengthen Diplomatic and Program Capabilities with a supporting statement on e-Government that calls for "…broad internal use of Web-based technology and support for electronic interaction with citizens, other government agencies, private businesses, and NGOs." Specifically, this goal calls for actions to:
The Department of State’s IT and eGovernment vision outlined in the FY 2006 - FY 2010 IT Strategic Goals Paper at http://www.state.gov/m/irm/rls/c23911.htm includes five goals:
The Department of State’s Strategic Goals Paper provides a high-level blueprint for building IT to support business functions and accomplish the Department’s strategic goals. The IT strategic goals support the implementation of the E-Gov Act by providing a plan for transforming operations to incorporate delivery of government services electronically, while supporting the Department’s mission, strategic goals, and statutory mandates. For example, IT Goal 3 above is specifically designed to foster e-Government development.
Post Administrative Software Suite (PASS)
1. How this initiative transforms State Department operations.
In January 2006, Secretary Rice’s call for "transformational diplomacy" aimed to transform the way that the Department of State conducts diplomacy in a rapidly changing world. Transformational Diplomacy Speech by Secretary Rice can be found at: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2006/59339.htm [archived]. This rapid change and the need for changing the way the Department does business applies not only to the more traditional diplomatic functions that form the Department’s mission , but also to the essential support service infrastructure that enables the U.S. to carry out its responsibilities overseas. The Department of State Mission Statement can be found at: http://www.state.gov/s/d/rm/rls/dosstrat/2004/23503.htm)
The challenge resulting from Secretary Rice’s transformational diplomacy initiative is to increase the percentage of staff at posts carrying out the core mission and reduce the percentage of staff in support roles. The Department had to consider costs while maintaining or improving the quality of support service delivery and more support work had to become location independent. The Post Administrative Software Suite (PASS) was developed over several years to move the Department from 260 separate posts conducting business with independent administrative business processes to an organization with a common business model using a set of proven and standardized administrative processes. PASS establishes a platform for delivering standard tools to address common administrative processes performed by all posts so the information processed can more effectively become an enterprise resource.
PASS already offers better access to information and tools for management at all levels. This new level of data integration supports modern quality managerial methods. Standardization of data enables greater interchange both vertically and horizontally within the organization. Vertically, post data on staffing is now flowing upwards from posts to give the Department a better and more complete overseas staffing picture. At the same time, information is flowing from the Department to posts via PASS databases that eliminate clerical research and data entry at posts while minimizing input errors. At posts, PASS enables the exchange of important data to flow horizontally among separate, but often overlapping business processes, thus helping eliminate redundant data entry. In addition, PASS workflows minimize paperwork, along with the delays, misrouting or losses that paper often represents.
The ability to backup files electronically and store them remotely, enables quicker destruction if necessary while providing for quick recovery and/or movement of work to alternate locations.
Vertical integration of data allows State Department managers in Washington, DC, to research many questions that previously would have been tasked to posts themselves – again reducing the strain on manpower resources at posts. Post managers in many cases have access to tools to allow them to see the big picture of their work for the first time. The PASS Dashboard allows managers to view data and timelines dynamically from high or detailed levels and helps them to be aware of issues and trends before they become serious problems.
What is PASS?
The Post Administrative Software Suite is a suite of software that shares common data, user interface, administration and security elements for use in post management business areas. PASS is a partnership effort between many functional and regional bureaus in the Department.
PASS provides users at posts overseas with access to:
In FY 2006, PASS deployed a new set of software modules called eServices to begin addressing the all-important interface with users at Department of State posts overseas. These modules leverage the Department’s investment in its unclassified Intranet on desktops by repeating practices used by online vendors, which allow users to place their service requests directly, such as in-processing, orders for supplies and equipment, motor pool scheduling, and visitor services. After appropriate authorizations, the data is transferred to the corresponding PASS applications and feedback is provided to the user on the status of the request. At the end of the process, feedback is requested from users to provide service providers and their managers an opportunity to know immediately when problems occur. The system tracks response times and gives managers important quality management tools.
PASS is providing direct access for requesting services by employees and their families of other U.S. Government agencies at overseas posts.
2. How the Department maintains an ongoing dialogue with interested parties to find innovative ways to use information technology for the initiative.
A PASS website on the Department of State’s unclassified Intranet disseminates documentation, software, and general information on PASS. In addition, PASS is implementing Help Desk links, a suggestion box, and a user forum.
The Department also has a PASS "Listserv" for informal discussions, suggestions, complaints, and shared solutions. Support staffs monitor other Listserv forums and participate in the International Common Administrative Support Services (ICASS) Service Center. The Center provides an online forum to discuss shared services with other agencies. In addition, conferences, open-door policies for transit employees, email, and telephone communications help PASS dialogue with interested parties and discover innovative ways to use IT in the PASS initiative.
3. External partners (e.g. Federal, State, or local agencies, industry) who collaborate on the initiative.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has an agreement with PASS to use some of the suite’s administrative functions at its overseas missions. USAID works with relevant business owners at the Department of State to use the respective applications under PASS and share data between the two agencies. USAID is also considering PASS to help administer some domestic business processes.
As the primary provider of shared administrative support systems at embassies and other diplomatic and consular missions overseas, the Department of State coordinates the provision of such services and distribution of their costs via a system known as International Common Administrative Support Services (ICASS). Virtually all other Department-level agencies of the USG with an overseas presence at Department of State posts participate in ICASS, as do many other lower level independent USG agencies.
The underlying accounting software to identify consumption of services and allow for the collection of workload metrics and distribution of costs is one of the software applications that run under PASS. At both the post and headquarters levels, other agencies are consumers of the 30+ categories of ICASS services. Many of these are supported at the post level by PASS software. The ICASS accounting application, as well as others are being examined and modified in several cases to allow participating agencies more direct access to information that concerns them.
4. Improved performance (i.e. outcome measures) by tracking performance measures supporting agency objectives and strategic goals.
A key goal of the Department of State and USAID’s strategic plan for FY 2004-2009 was to strengthen diplomatic and program capabilities. Specifically, the objectives of this goal are to:
PASS leverages the Department of State’s worldwide infrastructure and establishes a platform for delivering a set of standard tools, which posts can use to address common shared administrative tasks in support of the work of many different agencies. In doing so, PASS enables managers at both the local and headquarters level to more effectively benefit from standardized methods and integrated data. PASS also strengthens core information management systems and collaboration by moving the Department from 260 separate posts conducting business with independent administrative business processes to an organization with a common business model using a set of proven and standardized administrative processes.
PASS is a system component in the Department of State’s compliance with the President’s Management Agenda initiative for "A ‘Right-Sized’ Overseas Presence". It provides the Department more flexibility in aligning the mix of USG agencies and personnel overseas to foreign policy priorities, security concerns, and overall resource constraints.
5. Cost savings and cost avoidance achieved through implementing the initiative (e.g. reducing or eliminating other investments in information technology).
Development. The true cost avoidance is derived from each of the Department of State’s 260 overseas locations having to develop and maintain applications independent of a common service. By developing and deploying the Post Application Software Suite (PASS), the Department has potentially avoided 260 times the development maintenance costs, which may well vary from location to location. In addition, the PASS suite of applications, which shares a common security infrastructure, permits the Department to avoid certification and accreditation costs for multiple applications at overseas posts.
Improved Service Delivery. Posts using PASS applications to support activities that were previously supported by locally developed applications, e.g. personnel transfers or motor pool scheduling, provide better customer service and reduce costs.
Administration. The ongoing costs of administering PASS applications at posts are lower due to the common security and systems administration tool that platform offered by PASS Explorer software provides. In contrast, independently developed applications would require individual attention to security and administration. Under PASS, such tasks are performed for the entire suite.
Training. Standardized software means more efficient training opportunities, especially for American Foreign Service personnel who transfer from post to post. PASS allows an employee who learns a business process incorporating best practices to transition to another post with minimal additional training. Locally developed business procedures and software, on the other hand, frequently require significant relearning as employees move from post to post.
Data Collection. Standardized software allows standardized collection and reporting of data. Each time a report requiring collating, analysis and formatting of data can be "automated" via PASS and transmitted to Washington, DC, the potential savings in person-hours over paper-based systems can be dramatic. A single report that might require an American General Services Officer to spend a day compiling represents lost time. By eliminating costs of multiple reports from many different officers at well over one hundred overseas posts, the cost avoidance data collection savings mount.
Rightsizing. PASS allows many elements of administrative transactions to become location independent. An innovative program to use this capability in supporting the United States’ largest post (Baghdad, Iraq) demonstrates the point. New arrivals at posts must go through a series of time consuming, but necessary in-processing tasks. By creatively exploiting PASS’ functionality and by providing IT logons in advance of arrival, the Department has been able to complete in Washington as much as two-thirds of what would otherwise be accomplished on average a four-day in-process in Baghdad. The result is that employees are immediately able to begin work when they arrive. Given the high cost of maintaining personnel in Baghdad, the Department of State has estimated that the functions provided by the innovative "Orientation and In-Processing Center (OIP)" have made available up to two or even three additional days per tour for each employee. Employees can use the additional time to perform their primary functions, rather than spending that time completing in-processing or waiting for their IT logons to become effective. For a typical six-month to one-year tour for 1,000 employees, that amounts to as much as 16,000 person-hours or about 8 person-years of labor each year. In addition, PASS, the OIP and other electronic measures allow at least six Human Resources employees and other full-time personnel to be located off shore at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, or Department of State headquarters in Washington, DC, rather than in Baghdad. Total estimated savings is as much as 14 person-years. PASS and its capabilities are central to the success of this Rightsizing program.
6. How this initiative ensures the availability of government information and services for those without access to the internet or for those with disabilities.
All PASS applications undergo a compliance review under Section 508 and must meet basic standards for access by those with disabilities.
SECTION 2 – The Department of State’s process for determining which information will be made available on the Department’s public website and the Internet as required in Section 207(f)(2) of the e-Government Act.
The overall review process for releasing information to the public is detailed publicly at http://www.state.gov/misc/13864.htm in accordance with the Data Quality Act. This link is available in the top level of the state.gov website at http://www.state.gov/aboutstate/. Internally, information dissemination and print publishing procedures are governed by the Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual and the use of Department forms DS-1837 and –1837A, "Request for Approval of New or Recurring Information Dissemination" and "Request for Approval of New or Recurring Publications," respectively.
The Director of our Office of Electronic Information, who manages the main Department of State website (state.gov) and is a key member of the Department’s Internet Steering Committee, helps ensure that State public Internet guidelines are consistent with "Policies for Federal Agency Public Websites" released by the Office of Management and Budget in December 2004.
Note that according to the seventh annual e-government analysis by researchers at Brown University, the Department’s state.gov website ranked in the top 10 of federal agency websites, (See http://www.insidepolitics.org/egovt06us.pdf).
Explanation of how and when such final determinations, priorities, and schedules were available for public notice and comment:
These determinations, priorities, and schedules were posted on state.gov for public notice and comment at least six months prior to posting the final copy.
Progress to date for permitting searching of all files intended for public use on the website, displaying search results in order of relevancy to search criteria, and providing response times appropriately equivalent to industry best practices:
The Department of State’s website has provided search capability since its creation in 1995. The Department upgraded the search engine software in 2003, 2004, and 2006. Search response times are equivalent to industry best practices.
SECTION 3 – Coordination of the Department of State’s information dissemination with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) operations to improve both access to and dissemination of government information to the public.
The Department of State has a robust Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) program, which uses technology throughout the process. Through the Department’s website at www.foia.state.gov, the public has electronic access to a wealth of information – from reference materials aimed at helping the public understand the nature of the Department’s records and related programs to access a continuously growing collection of more than 60,000 declassified State Department documents. In addition, documents previously released under the FOIA, which the Department has categorized as of general public interest, also are available via the website. There are more than 15,000 such documents currently available electronically to the public. The Department of State also makes every effort to post information that falls under the (a)(2) provision of the Freedom of Information Act, including such information as administrative staff manuals (the Foreign Affairs Manual and the Foreign Affairs Handbooks). Additionally, the Department strives to proactively post information, such as the nearly 1,500 international agreements available on the website. To facilitate usability, the website features a search engine that enables full-text search and retrieval of documents in the various collections. The website is recognized as an authoritative source of information about U.S. foreign policy and the FOIA process at the Department, and it receives more than 250 million hits a year.
The Department is one of a growing number of federal agencies that permits the filing of FOIA requests electronically. In 2004, the Department established a web-based program whereby requesters can submit FOIA requests online. Virtually all such requests filed online now receive an immediate electronic acknowledgement. Requests are then tracked electronically through all stages of processing.
The Department also leverages technology in the systematic declassification review of documents that are 25 years old. Documents are reviewed electronically, and, in 2003, the Department successfully completed its first-ever electronic records transfer to the National Archives. Nearly two million records from the Department of State’s Central Foreign Policy File, covering the period 1973-75, were electronically transferred to the National Archives and a large portion of this collection is now declassified and available to the public through a link to the National Archives and Records Administration’s website.
In compliance with E.O. 13392, the Department developed a FOIA Improvement Plan to make the program even more citizen-centered and results-oriented. This plan is available at http://foia.state.gov/PDFs/EO13392ReportPlan.pdf.