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State Department on the Hunt for Electronic System to Manage Emails


The same day the State Department released the latest tranche of emails dating to Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, the agency kicked off the process for acquiring new technology that will automatically store officials emails as part of a governmentwide push on digital record keeping.

The State Department on Nov. 30 issued a request-for-information, seeking ideas from industry for both commercial, off-the-shelf technology as well as customized software for managing the department’s email.

Under a 2012 presidential mandate, agencies must manage all email records in an electronic format by Dec. 31, 2016.

The agency is looking for a tech solution that includes storage, search and secure backup among a host of other requirements. For now, State is only looking for a system to manage email records, although the agency said it prefers technology that can be expanded when a 2019 deadline for managing other types of digital records kicks in.

To comply with federal record-keeping regulations that predate the Internet, many agencies still print out hard-copy versions of emails covering official business and file them away. 

In 2012, President Barack Obama issued a directive requiring agencies to implement electronic record keeping by the end of 2016.

The National Archives and Records Administration fleshed out that directive in a 2013 bulletin, laying out a new automated approach to managing email records, called Capstone.

Under “Capstone,” emails of senior officials are automatically slotted for storage. Previous government policy directed officials to comb through their emails after the fact and determine which ones needed to be permanently retained.

The automated approach can automatically weed out irrelevant email blasts and emails from friends and family members.

State, which has 100,000 email accounts across both sensitive and classified networks and receives or sends 6 million email a day has signed on to follow the “Capstone” approach.

State is planning to permanently retain senior officials’ email permanently, according to the RFI. Other employees’ emails will be retained for seven years. “Transitory and personal email” will be deleted after a year, according to the notice.

Responses to the solicitation are due by Dec. 18. Contractors must have a top secret clearance.

Clinton’s exclusive use of a personal email server while she led the agency touched off controversy when it was revealed earlier this year. Following a series of lawsuits, State agreed to release Clinton’s work emails.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated how long senior officials' emails would be retained. According to the RFI, they will be permanently retained.  

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