Air Force moves 18,000 forms to electronic-only processing

'What we're attempting to do is start the process digitally and end it digitally.'

'Air Force's Carolyn Watkins-Taylor

Henrik G. de Gyor

The Air Force Departmental Publishing Office is moving the Air Force's semiautomated processing of forms to an entirely electronic process.

The office is the caretaker for more than 18,000 types of Air Force forms for administrative, finance, logistics, medical, personnel and travel transactions.

And though the service has been using some electronic forms, created using FormFlow from JetForm Corp. of Ottawa, Ontario, it has been printing them out and storing them as paper.

But in July, the Air Force publishing office finished a nine-month process of converting its 18,000 forms, used by hundreds of thousands of end users, to a Web-friendly application that accepts digital certificates.

PureEdge Solutions Inc. of Victoria, British Columbia, developed the application and transformed the existing FormFlow e-forms to its Internet Commerce System software that's based on the Extensible Markup Language.

The old process required Air Force employees to fill out forms electronically, but ultimately somewhere along the processing stream someone had to print the forms, said Carolyn Watkins-Taylor, director of the publishing office at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington.

'What we're attempting to do is start the process digitally and end it digitally,' Watkins-Taylor said.

Watkins-Taylor said her office has trained more than 300 forms designers in the Air Force to use the PureEdge tool.

The Air Force decided it had to revamp its forms management to meet the requirements of the Government Paperwork Elimination Act. The office is well ahead of the Oct. 21 GPEA deadline requiring that all possible transactions be made electronic, Watkins-Taylor said.

'They are not just meeting GPEA compliance but re-engineering business processes and meeting requirements very simply and very straightforwardly by digitizing paper,' said David Clark, director of product marketing at PureEdge. 'What the Air Force is doing is well ahead of what other organizations are doing.'

Missing deadline

The Office of Management and Budget has reported that it estimates only 52 percent of all transactions will comply with next month's GPEA deadline.

Currently, as the publishing office prepares to take the forms system servicewide, it is completing a review of each form to see 'how it can lend itself to being created as a wizard' or Web template.

Next, the office will look at other Air Force divisions and match up the common data elements culled from the 18,000 converted forms with any other forms in use throughout the service, Watkins-Taylor said.

'The long-term goal is to build automated systems around PureEdge,' she said. 'As you automate a process based on a form, you don't need the form anymore.'

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