Army unit turns to CD-ROMs
- By Gregory Slabodkin
- Oct 27, 1997
The office at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., has gathered volumes of testing
data since the service first tested the shoulder-fired, infrared anti-aircraft missiles
more than 20 years ago.
The Army previously kept paper copies of all Stinger test reports and studies. But
documents often were misplaced in the constant shuffle of program personnel.
"We have a high turnover rate for people here in the office, and when people
leave, they take with them the corporate knowledge of where the documents are," said
David Kennedy, an engineer with the Stinger Product Office.
The office staff members decided to convert the documents to an online format using
LaserFiche document imaging software from Compulink Management Center Inc. of Torrance,
"Before LaserFiche, people didn't know how to look up a specific file for
information that applied to a current problem," Kennedy said. "In that regard,
it's allowed us to access information we didn't even know we had."
Through its LaserFiche electronic records management system, Stinger has begun saving
data, such as test reports, engineering proposals, contract files and correspondence, on
CD-ROM. The office can store more than 16,000 paper documents on a single CD.
The LaserFiche application has a range of features including scanning, optical
character recognition, full-text indexing and faxing. Electronic indexing, in particular,
lets the the Stinger Product Office find documents much more easily than it can with the
paper filing system, Kennedy said.
The software indexes every word in a document, and the users can customize key fields
to permit rapid search and retrieval of hard-to-find documents.
"If we had access to all the test data created for Stinger over the years, we
might have saved money by not having to redo expensive tests," Kennedy said.
A full-blown Stinger flight test can cost as much as $250,000, he said.
"We looked at everything in a standalone PC workstation environment and concluded
that LaserFiche best fit our needs," he said.
The Army runs LaserFiche on a 33-MHz 486 under Microsoft Windows 3.1. But the office is
upgrading to a faster Pentium PC running Windows 95.
The office plans to bump up the hard drive size from 8M to 16M. The index had gotten so
large that the smaller hard drive could house the application software and the index. The
company recommends at least a 16M hard drive.
To capture the images, the Army uses a $50,000 CopyScan II scanner from Bell &
Howell Publication Systems Co. of Seven Hills, Ohio. The scanner, which has a 500-page
motorized document feeder, can scan both sides of a page simultaneously at a rate of 30
pages per minute. The office also uses an inexpensive flatbed scanner for the few images
that require color.
LaserFiche can delete a black-and-white page and insert a color page in its place.
So far the office has scanned only unclassified documents--about 15 file cabinets full
of paper--and burned them onto CD-ROM. The Army plans to put all classified documents--13
safes of material--on CD as well. But first the service must resolve a contentious issue
with the National Security Agency over the length of time its encryption and decryption
keys can be used.
The keys that the NSA issued are only good for one year and have expired. Consequently,
the Stinger Product Office will either have to get a waiver from the agency to use the old
keys or get new keys. Stinger officials want to use the keys they have, Kennedy said.
To burn the unclassified data onto CD, the Army uses the software that came with its
CD-ROM recorder from JVC Information Products Co. of America in Irvine, Calif.
The CD-writing software is custom-made by JVC for Tracor, which is licensed to sell the
NSA encryption and decryption hardware.
The NSA encryptor provides a secure environment for the Stinger Product Office so that
only authorized users can read the CDs. All of the PCs in the office have CD drives using
NSA's devices encrypt data as it is passed from the computer to the JVC CD-ROM
recorder. The information has to pass back through a decryptor each time someone wants to
view a document.
"The information that is actually written on the CD is encrypted, allowing us to
store it as unclassified material which relieves us of the burden of having to lock this
stuff up every night," Kennedy said. "CDs are real easy to stick in your pocket
and walk off with."
The Stinger Product Office has bought 15 notebook versions of LaserFiche for selected
external sites that will receive copies of the CDs. Hughes Aircraft Co., the manufacturer
of the Stinger, runs a duplicate system in Tucson, Ariz., to store locally produced
documents on CD.
After it converts all the classified documents in the archive to CD-ROM, the Stinger
Product Office plans to begin scanning documents in real time as they are produced.