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Washington Gets E-Discovery Wakeup Call

Federal agencies could learn a lot from local and state counterparts

The U.S. federal government more specifically, the White House – has an e-discovery problem. And what started with questionable email policies looks to have spread to overall backup.

A court filing today reveals there may be gaps in the backup tapes the White House IT shop used to store email. It appears that messages from the crucial early stages of the Iraq War, between March 1 and May 22, 2003, can't be found on tape. So, far from exonerating the White House staffers, the latest turn of events casts an even harsher light on their email policies.

Things are not exactly perfect elsewhere in the federal government, either. A recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified glaring holes in agencies’ antiquated email preservation techniques. Case in point: printing out emails and storing them in physical files.

What's the problem? Some say IT policies and purchases at the federal level are hampered by bureaucracy. This reduces the number of projects, and it may hinder agencies' ability to procure state-of-the-art solutions.

”Large federal implementations with a lot of stakeholders take a lot of time to get off the ground," says Scott Whitney, vice president of product management at e-discovery specialist Mimosa, which introduced its File System Archiving (FSA) solution today. "Overall, there are federal deals out there, but it isn’t half as often as the state and local implementations."

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