USPS Introduces Internet Service for Government Agencies

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The U.S. Postal Service yesterday introduced an Internet-based service for government agencies designed to secure and authenticate electronic correspondence.

The technology components of the service, called NetPost.Certified, include a smart card, a smart card reader, the USPS' certificate authority, the USPS' electronic postmark, file transport software and cryptographic software.

The service allows government users to obtain a USPS-issued digital certificate stored on a NetPost.Certified smart card. The smart card enables users to send electronic files securely and privately to government computers. Then, the NetPost.Certified service generates an electronic return receipt from the USPS that verifies delivery of each transaction.

The USPS worked with an AT&T team -- including IBM -- to deliver the management, technical and support resources necessary for NetPost.Certified to meet specific government requirements.

"The postal service has for more than 225 years played a pivotal role in enabling faster, more efficient and secure communication between the U.S. government and its citizens," said Deputy Postmaster General John Nolan. "NetPost.Certified was specifically designed to support e-government initiatives by expediting the movement of documents online and ensuring users that those documents sent electronically would be secure and private at all times while in transit."

The Social Security Administration was the first federal agency to sign up for this service. It will use NetPost.Certified for several applications, including obtaining vital statistics records from state governments.

The SSA and the Health Care Financing Administration have worked with the USPS to identify the service requirements for NetPost.Certified, and both agencies have participated in the pilot program to test the service for their respective applications. While the HCFA pilot is in full operation, the SSA is the first agency to implement the production version of the service.

"In Social Security's long-range plan -- specifically our vision for service in the year 2010 -- one of our goals is to create an electronic infrastructure which will enable our customers, anywhere in the world, to securely send us an electronic package of information and for us to reply to them in kind," said SSA deputy commissioner Bill Halter. "With NetPost.Certified, the postal service is providing us with an opportunity to test and integrate technology that will help us toward that goal."

The service, which costs 50 cents per file transmitted, helps federal agencies comply with the Government Paperwork Elimination Act of 1998, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Presidential Memorandum on E-Government.

The USPS is exploring whether to offer this service or a similar service to the private sector for business and personal use.

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