Army puts crisis guidance online

In the frantic days last October after anthrax attacks on targets in Florida, Washington and New York, Army personnel at commands across the country issued 14 different instructions on how to respond to suspicious mailings. A few offered conflicting advice. Some were simply wrong.

Army brass took notice. And then they took action.

In October, Army officials at Training and Doctrine Command headquarters at Fort Monroe, Va., instructed the Center for Army Lessons Learned at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to devise a system to mobilize troops when disaster strikes. Army brass wanted the system to be part of the Warrior Knowledge Network, a digital network with information for soldiers.

The result of the center's effort was the Installation Crisis Support System, a Web knowledge management system. ICSS has been installed at the Army's 15 Training and Doctrine Command sites throughout the country and has 250 users.

Eventually, the Army plans to make it available to all commands and to offer it to other federal agencies.

'A lot of our sources are from outside the Army,' said Jim Ritter, chief of operations for knowledge management at the Center for Army Lessons Learned.

Basic Web technology

The Web site, which uses object-based publishing in Extensible Markup Language, was built with freeware and internal programming. It contains a content center, online library and chat room. Visitors must give a password and user name to access the site.

'It is very basic Web technology, very intuitive,' Ritter said.
In an emergency, an installation commander could get a list of experts in state, local and federal agencies with helpful knowledge, Ritter said. The list would have names, organizations and contact information.

Ritter said the system would also be used to plan for worst-case scenarios and to organize troops. 'You put all of those pieces together and with our content center, you establish explicit knowledge.'

Rick Morris, deputy director of the center and program manager of the Warrior Knowledge Network, said the system reinforces the Army's goal of transforming the way it does business. This will eventually involve consolidating IT systems under an enterprise architecture.

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