House Considers Computerized Mail

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The chairman of the House Administration Committee is proposing a computerized mail service to overcome anthrax-related delivery delays and security concerns about regular mail service.

Rep. Bob Ney, R-OH, said a pilot project would allow lawmakers or committee offices to have their mail digitalized. Ney will not introduce the bill until the pilot project is completed and it can be verified that it is feasible for all 435 House members. No date has been set for the start or completion of the pilot project.

Currently, all congressional mail and mail addressed to federal office buildings in Washington is sent to U.S. Postal Service facilities in Ohio and New Jersey to be irradiated. Then the mail is sent to the congressional mail room operations before it is sent to final recipients. The Brentwood facility, which had processed this mail, has been closed since anthrax was detected there in October.

Under the project, handwritten mail or mail whose sender is not known that is addressed to congressional offices would first be delivered to a smaller postal facility in Washington and then to a facility that would scan, digitize and encrypt both sides of the letter and the envelope. It would then be sent to the appropriate member of Congress via e-mail. It could be sorted by subject or ZIP code to make it easier for lawmakers to see what issues interested their constituents.

The pilot project is being worked on in conjunction with Pitney Bowes, Stamford, CT, although if the project is approved, it may not be the company chosen to do the project.

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