Army centralizes IT services and applications

The Army's third version of its knowledge management portal will make it easier for users to share a key resource'information.

The service, which unveiled enterprise collaboration functions on the new version this month, is also planning to issue a request for proposals by the end of October in search of a single contractor to maintain the Army Knowledge Online portal, which now boasts roughly 1.7 million accounts.

Laura Petrosian, of the Army's Enterprise Integration Directorate, said AKO-3 is a major software update and includes enhancements that will let groups set up their own message boards, chat rooms and e-mail lists.

The version also includes a more flexible and tailored site, allows users to conduct polls and surveys, and will have a unified messaging console where users can pick up messages and alerts from all their applications, Petrosian said.

Eddie Henderson, CIO of field artillery, based in Fort Sill, Okla., said his units are already experiencing the benefits of the new version, which they have tested for the past 18 months.

'This is a one-stop shop through the AKO portal, where all fire support will come to this one online place,' Henderson explained during a session at the recent Army Directorates of Information Management conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Henderson said the collaboration tool has been used by troops in Iraq. If they have a particular need, they can set up their own structured forums and send out a query for help.

The new version operates on Appian Enterprise v.3 from Appian Corp. of Vienna, Va, an open-standards business process management suite. The tool will let users send content to an unlimited number of recipients, based on the profiles and preferences they set up.

The Army has seven contractors working on various aspects of the portal, officials said, and wants to decrease that to a single contractor.

AKO provides single-sign-on access to about 2,000 Army applications and services.

As the Army moves to increase collaboration on its AKO intranet, the service also is consolidating its desktop support services under a single organization and putting one person in charge of IT operations at each of its bases and installations.

The centralized approach will save money, improve network security and ensure that the Army's IT investments meet warfighters' needs, said Col. Mark Barnette, chief of the Information Infrastructure Modernization Division in the Army's CIO office.

'In the Cold War era, Army IT was never really centrally managed and funded,' Barnette said. 'This is a more holistic approach, rather than buying a particular solution or changing a particular policy.'

The Army will name a directorate of information management for each of its 180 active-duty installations under its Single Directorate of Information Management concept.

This means there will be one person at each base in charge of Army infrastructure management, including messaging and collaboration, Barnette said. Other personnel currently working on directorate job issues will be reassigned to other core mission areas.

Other job details for the local directorates include:
  • Introducing best practices

  • Consolidating desktop and server support contracts

  • Improving network security and compliance with the Defense Department's Information Assurance Vulnerability Alert

  • Centralizing command, control, communications, computers, and information management user services.

Barnette said the Army, in building what officials call its 'enterprise infostructure,' will focus this year on reinforcing the Enterprise Systems Technology Activity oversight of Army networks.

ESTA, part of the Network Enterprise Technology Command at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., will give the Army a plan to protect its networks by October, according to Army CIO Steven Boutelle.

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