Soldiers get relocation help

Soldiers get relocation help

Army Housing Division will have its database online by December

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

Army Housing officials later this year will roll out a Web-based relational database management system that will let the tens of thousands of soldiers who move annually get housing data directly.

Up to 160,000 service members relocate each year, such as this soldier at Fort Belvoir, Va.

The Army Housing Operations Management System 3 (HOMES) is now accessible to 1,600 Army Housing Division counselors on a LAN system at more than 120 sites, said Patricia Robinson, HOMES division chief at the Army Communications'

Electronics Command's Software Development Center in Washington.

As many as 160,000 soldiers relocate each year, and by December they will be able to access Army HOMES 3 from four Internet sites, Robinson said.

Post postings

The HOMES system includes information on on-post and off-post housing, furnishings and housing for transient personnel, said David Kriegman, a vice president of Army HOMES contractor SRA International Inc. of Arlington, Va.

'We're working on a Web interface that bases could customize,' Robinson said. 'It could be a user interface through a browser or local interface on a server.'

Rather than visiting an installation's Housing Office to speak with a counselor, soldiers could feed their own housing needs into the system via the Web.

The Army's Hewlett-Packard 9000 servers, which used the HP-UX operating system running the Informix 4.0 RDBMS from Informix Software Inc. of Menlo Park, Calif., were not year 2000-ready, so Army Housing Division officials decided to deploy a different system, Robinson said.

Working on a rushed schedule from July to late December last year, SRA officials deployed a Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 RDBMS running under Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 at 15 sites. 'We didn't receive one single Y2K help desk call,' she said.

Some small service sites deployed HP NetServer LH Pro servers, while the smallest are using Dell OptiPlex PCs.

Large sites such as Fort Hood, Texas, are running Dell PowerEdge 2300 servers with RAID storage, Kriegman said.

Several large sites conducted surge testing to ensure the system could meet additional memory requirements.

Army Housing officials are using Hewlett-Packard Vectra VL and Dell OptiPlex GXi PCs to access the database. Each SQL Server 7.0 database contains as much as 1G of data.

'We came in under budget and ahead of schedule' on the deployment, which cost less than $4 million, including help desk support, training and software development, Robinson said.

Army and SRA officials wanted to minimize the risks of system downtime and data loss during the migration, Kriegman said. In addition to performing data quality checks, Army and SRA officials used SQL Server's Data Transformation Services feature, a graphical tool to help in database migration, Robinson said. They also used Visual Basic 5.0 for software development.

The HOMES 3 system has about 70 database tables. It puts soldiers on a waiting list if they can't find housing.

Counselors can also receive renovation planning data for each dwelling listed in the system, trends in occupancy patterns for particular sites and other data, said Anita Berryman, an SRA spokeswoman.

In addition to 40 installations in the continental U.S., sites in Alaska, Hawaii, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Korea and Panama use Army HOMES 3. The Navy also uses it at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Robinson said.

Installations in Guam, Korea, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have inquired about using the system.

System administrators may be able to scan housing floor plans into future versions of HOMES, with interior and exterior views of each dwelling, Robinson said.

'This is a quality-of-life issue,' Kriegman said.


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