Logging On: Army's Web Portal Expanding under New Management
Jean, Grace, National Defense
As the Army continues to move toward becoming an information-age force, its demands for networking tools and training have increased at a commensurate rate.
To keep up with those needs, the Army in July awarded a $152 million contract to Lockheed Martin Corp., based in Bethesda, Md., to manage the service's four-year-old enterprise web portal, Army Knowledge Online.
"The impetus was to make this capability available to industries to let them tell us, what are some new solutions out there, how can we make this better ... and hopefully doing it at less cost," said Col. Taylor Chasteen, product manager for AKO in the Army's program executive office for enterprise information systems.
AKO serves 1.8 million users, with 300,000 people logging on daily, said officials. It's one of the largest corporate intranet portals known in the world, according to Autonomy Corp., which produces infrastructure software for the enterprise.
"AKO is a wonderful vehicle, and the Army has yet to realize its full potential," said Chasteen. "Part of our job here is to stay in touch with industry, to stay aware of tools and technologies that could be incorporated into the portal at some point in time."
The suite of offerings that AKO provides its users include the Army's sole unified directory, e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, file storage and document collaboration, said officials.
"We like to compare ourselves to Yahoo," said Lt. Col. Kenneth Blakely, chief of operations for AKO.
Like Yahoo and other commercial web portals, AKO offers a wide range of services that is tailored to individuals, said Blakely.
In addition to accessing online news and Army announcements, users also can view personal information and records pertaining to education, training, finance and health. Active-duty soldiers and reservists are required to complete a number of online courses, such as a new mandatory accident avoidance course, which they can fulfill via AKO.
Groups within the service, too, can find or create niches on AKO.
"Any organization above the battalion level can have its own web presence," said Blakely. "They can have their own coloring, branding and everything else."
The Army Test and Evaluation Center, for example, has begun migrating its presence into AKO, he said.
Users can access AKO anywhere, at any time, as long as they have a browser, password and connection, said officials.
Lt. Col. Mike Bridges, chief of architecture, said he used AKO every single day during a trip to Iraq in the fall.
"It was nice to be able to pick up and travel around the globe, and have access to everything that I would have back on my office desktop," he said. "That is the true benefit of net-centric."
While in Iraq, Bridges witnessed soldiers in the 42nd Infantry Division using AKO. …