Army thinks big on knowledge management

Eventually, stovepiped programs will face budget cuts, Gary Winkler says.

Henrik G. de Gyor

The biggest challenge blocking the Army's goal of knowledge management is no longer creating effective IT applications. It's getting them to work together.

Gary Winkler, the service's principal director for enterprise integration, said too many units are developing software to suit small mission areas instead of considering the entire Army enterprise.

Winkler said mission applications across the Army are often stovepiped; they don't fit into the service's larger plan of transforming processes to support an enterprise network.

But the service is working to change this and incorporate technologies that make it easier for users to share and access information and work together.

'We're migrating away from those small, targeted, specific apps that don't talk to anything else,' Winkler said.

At one time, he said, 'developing an app was the hard part. Now it's really easy to stand up an app to target any one particular problem. We're focusing on the architecture throughout the enterprise.'

Two approaches

The Army is getting its enterprise architecture word out in two ways:
  • Army CIO Lt. Gen. Steven W. Boutelle has established a Strategic Partnering Division, made up of civilian, military and contractor personnel who go out to the various Army directorates'such as personnel, training, intelligence and logistics'to make sure they are developing applications at the enterprise level. The message the division is bringing is that systems must be developed to interoperate with other systems and must tie into the Defense Department's business enterprise architecture. Eventually, stovepiped programs will face budget cuts, Winkler said.

  • Second, Boutelle sits on the Army CIO Executive Board, composed of 49 flag officer-level representatives across the organization, which meets quarterly to discuss issues and challenges to achieving an enterprise network. Boutelle also sits on the Office of the Secretary of Defense's CIO Executive Board and reports on the Army's progress.

Vernon Bettencourt, the Army's deputy CIO, said the service also plans to look at business cases for wireless systems at each of its major installations and will examine whether it makes sense to lease some capabilities for the enterprise network.

To make the massive amounts of data it collects useful to warfighters, the Army also is moving to use a version of the Web that presents information in a machine-readable format.

Boutelle said the Army must move away from the current Web environment and turn to the semantic Web, which will help military users improve their knowledge management.

'This is the next step ... to really get knowledge out of terabytes of information,' Boutelle said recently during the Army's 2004 Directorates of Information Management conference.

With the flow of information into Army networks growing daily, the service is expanding its use of Extensible Markup Language and improving security, he said.

Boutelle said the Army needs industry's help to defend military networks from the increasing threat posed by intrusions and attacks.

'Information is our jewel,' Boutelle said. 'We've got to protect it, yet make it readily available to the right person.'

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