E-John Hancock: Energy has first cabinet-level digital signature

President Bush received the first cabinet-level document using digital signature technology, a formal recommendation from Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.

Marking the first time digital signature technology has been used in an official cabinet-level capacity, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham signed a formal recommendation on Yucca Mountain Project and e-mailed it to President Bush Feb. 15, according to authentication provider VeriSign Inc., which supplied the service.

Delivery of this missive and the accompanying 9,500 page report in a secure electronic format saved the agency between $800,000 and $1 million in copying, processing and storage costs. It is "the largest single collection of documents ever to be published electronically in tandem with a major policy decision," VeriSign said in a Feb. 28 statement announcing the signing.

In electronic format, the report would have required more than six compact discs per copy; if printed, it would weigh more than 80 pounds. Each page also would have to be stamped to verify its authenticity.

"The Department of Energy needed a trusted solution that addressed all of their security requirements and, at the same time, dramatically reduced the costs for issuing this important recommendation," said John Weinschenk, vice president of VeriSign's Enterprise Services division. "Our service was up and running in days."

Agencies are studying using digital signatures as they are required to perform more electronic transactions by the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act signed into law in October of 2000.

"The goal of E-SIGN was to extend the use of electronic signatures and electronic record keeping to all commercial transactions, and especially financial transactions," said James Lucier, vice president and senior Washington analyst with the Prudential Insurance Company of America, Newark, N.J.

For authentication provider VeriSign Inc., Mountain View, Calif., the event is a key victory in its push into the government market. In the final quarter of 2001, the company opened a public-sector office, which employs eight people.

Company officials said VeriSign is also providing service to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs and for the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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