IT goal is a quicker, tougher Army
IT goal is a quicker, tougher Army<@VM>Major Programs
- By Dawn S. Onley
- Aug 08, 2001
'The entire Army leadership sees IT across all areas as an absolutely critical enabler of transformation.'
'Army Deputy CIO David Borland
How many information technology transformation goals does it take to change the Army?
Seven, apparently. That's the number of objectives Army brass laid out in a recent series of meetings with the service's systems officials. Over the next two years the largest military branch plans to reconstruct the way it does business.
The changes will make the Army 'quicker, more agile, with more punch, more lethality' said David Borland, the service's deputy chief information officer.
Much of the infrastructure is already in place to achieve the goals, Borland added. They involve beefing up the Army's networks to handle all 1.5 million Army personnel, including active-duty, reserve and National Guard soldiers as well as civilian employees.
The Army also plans this month to designate a knowledge manager to serve as the central focus for the service's IT efforts, Borland said.
'The entire Army leadership sees IT across all areas as an absolutely critical enabler of transformation,' Borland said. 'There are a lot of people who have high dependency on the technology. Right now, management is decentralized. We need to centralize and set up a governance.'Redundant systems
This idea of transforming the Army began when officials looked at where the agency was and where it needed to go, Borland said.
They found many outdated practices and redundant systems that could be consolidated.
'We've been studying ourselves,' Borland said.
The Army's goals include establishing what Borland called an 'info-structure,' a way to acquire and deliver information anywhere, anytime.
The other goals are:
' Better management of human resources, including recruitment and retention
' Aligning the CIO's office with the directorate for information systems for command, control, communications and computers into a more strategic partnership for logistics, personnel and finance
' Capital planning
' Outreach to other federal agencies, industry and academia to see what business practices they are using;
' Consolidating IT infrastructure and cutting hundreds of small programs.
The IT transformation is driven partly by the $6.9 billion Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, said Miriam Browning, director for enterprise integration in the office of the Army CIO.
While the service has no plans for an outsourcing project similar to NMCI, Browning said, Army leaders recognize the need for modernization and an enterprise approach to IT.
'I think when the Navy awarded the NMCI contract this past fall, there was a resounding sound in this town,' Browning said. 'That was an influence to speeding up our drive to become an Internet-age Army. I think there is a great desire to be a very modern Army.'
Through the NMCI contract, awarded last year to Electronic Data Systems Corp., the Navy will buy IT as if it were a utility. EDS will consolidate 200 networks into one intranet, linking more than 360,000 desktop PCs. The company will provide technology upgrades, hardware and software, technical support, e-mail service, training and security services in its per-seat charge, which currently averages $3,412 per year.NMCI a model
Although the Army is handling much of its transformation, its goal is the same as NMCI, Borland and Browning agreed.
'NMCI is certainly a model, but there are others. We want to look across the broad spectrum of things,' said Borland.
This month, the Army plans to issue a request for companies to look at various parts of its infrastructure and make recommendations on consolidation, Browning said.
Next spring, the Army will release a request for proposals that adopts some of the suggestions.
Other facets of the Army's plan to modernize include the Army Knowledge Online intranet portal and the eArmyU distance-learning initiative, which was rolled out in January.
Currently, 167,000 soldiers have accounts on Army Knowledge Online. But by next year, the AKO office has been told that the portal must be scaled up to handle the entire Army, said Lt. Col. Roderick K. Wade, the head of the project.
In October, soldiers will be able to use the portal to view their official military files, including evaluation reports and awards.
Some of the portal's channels include links to schools, retirement information, noncommissioned officer training, veterans' information and eArmyU.
In January, soldiers at three Army posts'Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Hood, Texas; and Fort Campbell, Ky.'began taking classes through eArmyU. Officials plan to increase enrollment until the project is offered throughout the Army.
Participants will be able to earn certificates or an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree from a home university while taking courses from several colleges.' Army Knowledge Online
'The intranet portal recently began offering instant messaging and personalization software that allows bulk messages to be sent out to a subset of the Army. The portal also has such features as free e-mail, access to Army news articles, banking information, white pages where soldiers can look up each other and three different search engines of the .mil
' Division Capstone Exercise'After the Gulf War, the Army began focusing on using IT to enhance combat capabilities. Out of that battlefield digitization effort came the Army's first advanced warfighting exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. The hardware running the command applications displays moving icons, representing forces and vehicles, in real time on color screens. Enemy forces are red, friendly forces blue.
' eArmyU.com'The service offers an electronic-learning portal where soldiers can receive free, online education from 24 colleges and universities. The program is currently offered at three Army posts. In December, the Army awarded a five-year, $453 million contract to PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc. of New York to build the portal. Within the next five years, the Army plans to offer online courses to 80,000 soldiers, officials said.