Army automates paper records system

The Army is developing an online system for filing personnel documents that will collect hundreds of thousands of records in four nationwide centers into a single database that soldiers can check from their homes.

The initiative, called the Official Military Personnel File Online, will be a component of the Army's Personnel Electronic Record Management System (PERMS). Army officials also are working toward making the system accessible through the Army Knowledge Online portal.

A system uses servers, desktop PCs and application software from vendors such as Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. to store the electronic documents that users can access, retrieve and display.

In the last six months, 800,000 soldiers have gained access to the system. In the next year and a half, the Army expects to increase that total to 1.2 million.

The system replaces the microfiche method of storage that the Army has used for the last decade. With that system, soldiers had to submit written requests for copies of their personnel files and wait weeks to receive them in the mail. The process took even longer if they had to send back the documents with changes. Now, users can view their files at personnel offices on base, which can fax or e-mail changes that will appear on-screen within 24 hours.

'This is making sure the soldier's record accurately represents where that soldier is,' said James P. Riggs, PERMS program manager for the Army.

Among the uses for the online files is tracking candidates for promotion.

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