Army portal gives personnel access to lifetime e-mail addresses

Army portal gives personnel access to lifetime e-mail addresses


The Army Knowledge Online portal uses the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol to unify access to Web services. A single AKO e-mail address can follow a user throughout a military career and into retirement.

The portal, at, now has 107,000 users, and the number is expected to grow to 450,000 by June to include most of the Army's 480,000 active-duty personnel. National Guard and Army Reserve members and Army retirees with 20 or more years of service also can use the portal.

Its purpose is to share information, freeing more time for Army personnel to analyze data instead of collect it.

'AKO started with the premise that anybody who gets an account gets not only a user password but also an e-mail account with 50M of storage,' said Col. Robert Coxe, director of the Army's Strategic and Advanced Computing Center at Fort Belvoir, Va.

'The user then has a career-long e-mail account that can be used to forward e-mail to a current location,' Coxe said. 'Army guys might start out at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., then go to Fort Belvoir, then on to the Pentagon. But they have one e-mail account, [email protected]'

By making the portal accessible through any Web browser, Coxe said, the Army can link thousands of users for a given task. A recent project called PersTempo, for example, measured the time a soldier was deployed away from the home station.

'If it exceeded a number dictated by Congress, then the individual was to get a bonus of $100 per day,' Coxe said. 'The interest level was to avoid that penalty. We had 30 days to get it built and in the hands of the users'more than 10,000 personnel clerks. That's where the Army is seeing a lot of value in AKO. It can get things to the field quicker than the old, large standard information system.'

The Army Personnel Command is one of the largest AKO users. Maj. Robert Zoppa, AKO program manager, said other organizations also are looking at the portal for remote authentication.

Mail brigade

The 1,500-student Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth is using AKO for student e-mail. So are some Army Reserve units that previously used commercial Internet portals.

'If you send e-mail and you're not on the .mil domain, it's not viewed as official,' said Lt. Col. Addison Woods, chief of the Fort Belvoir center's Knowledge Engineering Group. 'The reserves are spread across many states. The only way to get e-mail is here. That drove a lot of the reserves to come here.'

Woods said AKO uses both SunSoft Solaris and Microsoft Windows NT. It connects to the world via a 622-Mbps OC-12 fiber connection to Fort Belvoir's Directorate of Information Management and from there over an OC-3 connection to the Defense Information Systems Network.

'It's about 65 percent on a Sun Microsystems Enterprise 6500 server running Solaris and a host of smaller Sun Enterprise 450 and 250 models, so that we can have a modular architecture,' he said. The center also runs Microsoft Windows NT, mostly on servers from Compaq Computer Corp. and Dell Computer Corp.

The portal uses Sun's NetDynamics portal software. Other portal applications include Netscape Communications Corp. Web server software and an Oracle Corp. database for the back-end LDAP processing. AKO has 128-bit encryption and firewall protection, said Steven Whitaker, program manager for a support team from Acuent Inc. of Parsippany, N.J.

Another AKO component is the Staff Officer Knowledge Center, which uses Lotus Notes software for document exchange and collaboration.

Acuent began hard-coding the knowledge center software in 1999. Any changes required reprogramming, so the application was converted to a template format for Web use. Now individual staff officers can control the way it looks and works for them.

The next step for AKO might be joining the portal to the Army University Access Online portal. 'We are in the process of addressing that relationship, but nothing has been finalized yet,' Whitaker said.


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