Web portal delivers info, services

Web portal delivers info, services


Lt. Col. David Packham, portal focus group leader, right, demonstrates My.AirForce.mil for Lt. Gen. John L. Woodward Jr., deputy chief of staff for communications and information.
The Air Force has made it easier for 775,000 military and civilian personnel to access information they previously had to stand in customer services lines or wait days'sometimes weeks'to obtain.

With the development of My.AirForce.mil, an intranet portal that will eventually consolidate hundreds of Air Force resources, the service is copying an industry practice learned at an information technology summit last July in California. Top Air Force officials were invited to see what major software and networking companies were doing to consolidate basic services.

They found most companies had already implemented Web-enabled applications that consolidated everything from payroll services to information on company benefits.

After the summit, the officials had one question for their IT specialists: 'Can we do what industry has done to streamline services?'

The answer was yes.

'After the IT summit, they came back and said, 'Let's put a directory together to enable us to find anything in the Air Force,' ' said Lt. Col. Don Greiman, chief of directors for the Communication and Information Action Group for the deputy chief of staff for communications and information.

Bringing it all together

Who's In Charge

Lawrence J. Delaney

Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition and Chief Information Officer

John M. Gilligan

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Business and Information Management
and Deputy CIO

Lt. Gen. John L. 'Jack' Woodward Jr.

Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications
and Information and Deputy CIO


(in millions, September 1999 - june 2000)

Lockheed Martin Corp.$487.2
Raytheon Co. Inc.$159.4
Boeing Co. Inc.$132.5
General Dynamics Government$125.6
TRW Inc.$108.1
Computer Sciences Corp.$104.5
Northrop Grumman Corp.$94.9
Science Applications International Corp.$65.5
Sverdrup Tech Inc.$53.3



IT spending rises slowly

Sources for Inside Air Force include the Air Force and Input of Chantilly, Va.

The directory, also known as the white pages database, links the names, duty stations, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses from personnel databases into one system. The white pages became one of three initiatives under a new mission the Air Force dubbed One Air Force, One Network. The other two involved developing the single access portal and consolidating
e-mail servers.

Work on the portal began last August with 23 service applications and 200 test users. After only a few weeks online, the portal offers more than 80 applications and has 5,000 users, letting them access both self-service information such as the local weather as well as Air Force applications.

The portal was designed by Sytel Inc. of Bethesda, Md., to let Air Force personnel perform numerous tasks at desktop PCs. For instance, because military members often change duty stations every two to three years, they have a lot of updating to do. They usually have to sign up at the clinic on their new base and order supplies.

From their PCs, they can also check payroll records, get online information on special events, or handle logistics information such as surveying a base's inventory to see if any parts need to be ordered.

'If you can do that electronically, you can achieve some economies,'' Greiman said. 'You shouldn't have to go to the personnel department to view your information. By consolidating our file servers and applications, more of those people are doing other things related to their functional capabilities.''

The action group outlined IT summit initiatives aimed at helping the Air Force run more efficiently. The portal also puts the agency on the cutting edge of technology, Greiman said.
But there have been some challenges.

First, officials had to come up with the right list of standards and framework to enable distribution, development and global use. The portal unifies information from more than 700 online systems and makes it available to service members working from their offices, command centers, cockpits and even space.

'It's a work in progress,'' Greiman said. 'It's constantly evolving at the speed of information technology at the private sector.''

Greiman said the Air Force expects to make the portal fully available to everyone within a year.

'Talk about a labor of love,'' Greiman said. 'There was no small measure of pride to be able to stand in front of the chief of staff and generals and say, 'You asked us if we could do it, and we did it.' ''

Major Programs
' Air Force e-publishing system. Each month, Air Force users access more than 5.5 million publication and form files. The manpower-intensive publishing warehouse and distribution process switched to online ordering, allowing servicewide access to publications and forms. The Air Force closed 88 publishing distribution offices, saving $18 million a year.

' Networthiness. The networthiness concept was developed in response to interoperability and capacity problems. To ensure all new capabilities developed for the Air Force are fully supportable, they must meet basic security, compatibility and planning requirements to ensure benefits to warfighters.

' Enterprise Software Initiative. This program is aimed at reducing commercial software costs by consolidating Defense Department negotiations and purchases, and providing software choices to DOD customers. ESI establishes discount agreements for competing products that can be used by all DOD customers. The Air Force is developing a business case to determine whether enterprise agreements would add significant cost.

' Air Force biometrics. Biometrics-enabled security applications are based on methods of authenticating an individual's identity, such as fingerprints, hand geometry, iris patterns and voice recognition. The Air Force plans to begin pilot tests soon. In addition to passwords, a public-key infrastructure and smart cards, biometrics will provide increased access control to Air Force facilities, resources and computer networks.

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