CBT inks licensing deal with Air Force

CBT Systems Ltd. Menlo Park Calif. signed a licensing agreement this month with the Air Force that gives all Air Force personnel unlimited free access to more than 500 computer-training programs.

The contract which has been valued at more than $500 000 runs for one fiscal year and covers interactive training in topics such as Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT Office 95 and 97 Oracle Corp.'s database programming Novell Inc.'s IntranetWare Cisco Systems Inc.'s IOS Java and World Wide Web authoring and publishing technology.

Prompted by a reorganization that combined career fields and by the increased pace of change in the whole computer arena the new licensing approach grew out of a realization at the Air Force Training Command that training needed to be centralized and standardized. "The old way of training personnel was just too expensive " said Senior Master Sgt. Scott Abukoff the Air Force Communications-Computer Systems project manager. "The field is changing quickly and many of our people need to have refresher courses to stay abreast of developments particularly in networking.

"We sat down and outlined what training we needed for a number of different job specialties including networking. We were overwhelmed by the volume of training required. It would take us 20 years to develop courses to meet the needs we had identified " Abukoff said. "We decided we should outsource the training requirement."

To simplify the administration and management of the contract the Air Force chose to contract for a single license that would include whatever was commercially available in the vendor's training library. When the library changes the new material is automatically covered and available to the Air Force personnel. The service also wanted the ability to make whatever copies are needed so individuals can work from home computers.

CBT and other vendors presented their solutions to 15 selection criteria at Scott Air Force Base Bellville Ill. in May. CBT was selected because of the task-based simulation approach according to Abukoff. "We thought their approach was more realistic and gave the user better feedback " Abukoff said.

Later this month CBT will distribute the entire training library on a series of CD-ROMs. It will be mailed to the major commands the communications squadrons and the joint agencies such as the Defense Information Systems Agency.

The compressed files will fill seven CDs. By October CBT officials expect individuals to be able to download the training products they want via an Internet browser from each base's library. Updates will be done electronically so the library files are always current. CBT is also offering a dedicated 800 number and 17-hour-per-day technical support as well as a specialized Web site with user information.

Completion of the courses permits individuals to meet Air Force job qualification standards. They also can receive professional certification as network or software engineers. A program has also been set up that permits college credit through the American Academy of Distance Learning.

"We believe this is the first time a military service has standardized on a training solution " said Willard Scott a federal program manager at CBT.

"As the largest user of information technology in the world the U.S. government represents a significant market opportunity for CBT Systems. We're pleased to be partnering with the Air Force and we look forward to expanding our role throughout the federal government marketplace " said James J. Buckley CBT's president and chief executive officer.

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