How Air Force will move to Web services

The Global Combat Support System will be 'one of the main projects using XML messaging' to connect 22 pipelines for supplies, transportation, maintenance and other functions, Sandra L. Swearingen of the Air Force Communications Agency said today.

Swearingen, who spoke last month at a meeting of the CIO Council's Extensible Markup Language Working Group, works in the Enterprise Information Division at Scott Air Base, Ill. She said the division is helping Air Force organizations learn how to use XML.

'We haven't seen the Federal Enterprise Architecture yet, but from what we know it looks as if it will be compatible' with her division's efforts, she said. The division plans to use XML tags from the Defense Department's XML Registry in the GCSS strategy, she said, 'and we will submit any standard industry tags' that prove useful to the registry.

Once the GCSS framework is interoperable, she said, users could log on once to access all the enterprise systems with permissions managed through the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol.

Swearingen gave a graphic example of how Web services work. 'I didn't invent it myself,' she said, crediting David M. Connelly of the Open Applications Group Inc., a nonprofit consortium.

She likened the flow of Web services to a three-hole electrical outlet with security as the third hole, or ground wire.

The shapes of the electrical outlet and appliance plugs must be standardized and technology-neutral for Web services to work, she explained.

The Simple Object Access Protocol is like a plug's prongs, which connect the appliance to the current through the outlet. But for current to flow properly, the appliance must speak a business language, such as that of the Open Applications Group's OAGIS 8.0 schema.

'We're in the conceptual phase,' Swearingen said. 'It's new technology, and I don't have an estimated completion date.'

Also at the XML Working Group meeting, PureEdge Solutions Inc. of Victoria, British Columbia, described how the Air Force is converting its 16,000 forms into displayable, fillable e-forms via XML and a PureEdge reader.

The enterprisewide Air Force license is worth about $10 million over three years, said PureEdge federal account executive Steve Jacek.

He said the forms can be prefilled with each user's name, rank and location, and digitally signed with DOD's Common Access smart card.


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