Army tests app to get view of all deployed soldiers

'This will help fix the past problems of not having a good history of the exact location of a soldier during a deployed situation,' the Army's Kevin Carroll says.

Henrik G. de Gyor

The Army next month will test an application giving warfighters and managers in Afghanistan and Kuwait a constant view of all troops in theater.

If tests of the Deployed Theater Accountability Software go well, the service will roll out DTAS in January to all battalions in Iraq. The service has been developing the application for a year.

The app, which runs over the Defense Department's Secret IP Router Network, is a classified extension of the service's Electronic Military Personnel Office system.

The new tool is badly needed, Army officials said. Today, commanders know when troops arrive in Iraq and when they depart. But they lose sight of soldiers when they move from mission to mission across the country, because there are numerous ad hoc and disparate personnel systems in use.

The eMILPO extension is necessary because information about the exact location of a soldier or officer is considered classified and not available to users of eMILPO, which is deployed to the field.

'This will help fix the past problems of not having a good history of the exact location of a soldier during a deployed situation,' said Kevin Carroll, the Army's program executive officer for enterprise information systems.

'DTAS is designed to provide strength accounting of deployed personnel. It allows the daily tracking of each individual in a deployed unit,' he said.

Three-tiered approach

The browser software consists of a three-tiered architecture: an enterprise database, a theater database and a mobile client system, said Maj. Robert Cummins, systems integrator of DTAS and assistant project manager for the Army Human Resource System. Cummins' team develops and tests Army field personnel systems, such as eMILPO, which support personnel services, accounting and reassignments.

The enterprise database resides in a secure area at the Pentagon and is accessible via the Army Knowledge Online-Secret Web portal.

The database will have a two-way interface with eMILPO and Defense Manpower Data Center systems to receive and serve up information on deployed soldiers.

The theater database will reside with the Coalition Forces Land Component Command and will be the central repository for theater personnel data.

Because of interface rules in the enterprise database, the theater database will only let one location be assigned to a soldier's record. For example, if a soldier goes to Iraq from Afghanistan, his record in Afghanistan will be removed from the theater database but will remain in the enterprise database at the Pentagon.

The mobile system will include desktop and notebook PCs linked into that theater's SIPRNet subnet and will be available to all command levels, from battalion to theater level.

Data used to populate DTAS will come from eMILPO and the Defense Manpower Data Center. Cummins said DTAS can operate offline, but that a network link is necessary to synchronize the data and keep the files up to date.

Some Army personnel employees in Iraq are currently using the eMILPO system, developed by EDS Corp. under a 19-month, $9.5 million contract. EDS is also the lead contractor for DTAS, under a separate $3.6 million deal.

Besides letting the service keep track of soldiers, DTAS will also help create an archive of a soldier's whereabouts for historical trend reports and analyses, said Army Lt. Col. Joseph Klumpp, product manager for the Army Human Resource System.

For example, if a soldier were deployed near burning chemical munitions and later developed an illness because of his exposure, the Army could use DTAS to get a list of other soldiers in the vicinity, Klumpp said.

The system will help answer high-level questions from senior Army leaders, such as what skills are available among soldiers.

'It's a very fluid and dynamic environment. People want to know exactly how many people are deployed in theater. With DTAS, we'll know exactly,' Klumpp said. 'We get a lot of high-level requests about who's in theater. Everyone's very curious about who's over there and where they are located.'

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