Air Force moves online

Air Force officials have stepped up efforts to get more service personnel to use the Air Force's Web portal, citing its potential for improved data delivery and communications.

Service officials hope to register 750,000 employees for network use. Additionally, they will begin letting personnel use the portal's instant messaging features to communicate with family members and other military users. Officials believe instant messaging is ready for prime time after a three-month pilot program proved successful during the war in Iraq and now that technicians have resolved several security concerns.

During the past six months, service leaders have ordered generals to register personnel at their bases and have issued memorandums supporting the portal's use among employees. They believe the portal, accessible at www.my.af.mil, can improve data delivery and Internet content and

access, said Col. Norris Connelly, director of systems and technology in the office of the Air Force's chief information officer.

"Because of the business process and quality-of-life value this capability brings, [Air Force chief of staff] Gen. John Jumper endorsed the acceleration of the portal fielding and challenged our senior commanders and Air Force leaders to become personally involved to make the portal a key enabler for Air Force business processes," Connelly said.

The service's six-month plan to improve the portal shows a commitment to

e-government and to creating a greater sense of community, according to Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president of consulting and chief knowledge officer at Federal Sources Inc. in McLean, Va.

"The Air Force has stepped up operations globally," he said. "There are major groups of airmen deployed overseas while their families are here. The Air Force portal lets them reach back to loved ones and colleagues."

Air Force chief information officer John Gilligan briefed the service's senior military leadership on the portal in October during their biannual meeting at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. Gilligan discussed how he wants to make the service's 1,200 computer applications accessible to all Air Force personnel at any time via the Web, said Connelly, who oversaw the portal initiative. He retires in July.

Air Force officials also created a special projects office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, in October to add more functions to the portal. Additions include collaboration, document and electronic records management, electronic workflow and knowledge management, he said.

Air Force Secretary James Roche strengthened the portal effort in January by sending a memorandum to the nine commands on IT initiatives for 2004. "We must continue our commitment to the Air Force portal," said Roche in a memo, "Air Force IT Initiatives." "All Air Force personnel must have a portal account, and all self-service capabilities will be available on the portal." He also wants to consolidate networks and servers and better account for IT spending this year, part of his enterprise IT services strategy, the memo said.

The Air Force experimented with the portal during Operation Iraqi Freedom, using it for logistics and communications, according to Gilligan. "It worked quite well. People deployed overseas could get some communications access. It gave great worldwide visibility," he said.

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