Air Force consolidates readiness information

An Air Force lab has developed an application that, through a combination

of smart cards and database integration technology, could provide commanders

with up-to-the-minute information on personnel readiness.

The Deployment Personnel Accountability and Readiness Tool (DPART),

developed by the Air Force Air Expeditionary Force Battlelab in Mountain

Home, Idaho, would use commercially available technologies to tie together

multiple applications that process personnel, medical, dental and training

information on individual service members.

The plan is to locate such information in a central database that commanders

could access via the Air Force intranet to learn whether individual service

members are ready to be deployed. The program, according to Air Force sources,

will allow a commander to quickly check the readiness status of 4,000 people,

rather than having to piece together information from multiple systems.

"The objective is to improve the readiness and the responsiveness of

all air expeditionary forces [by] taking the readiness screening from a

reactive effort and making it proactive," said Capt. Nicole Slominski, a

logistics plans officer at the battlelab, which is chartered with identifying

tools that can help deploy or support groups going into combat. "All of

those different areas [personnel, medical, dental and training] have their

own computer systems. We had a program built that hooks into those systems

and links them into one central database that we can get into through the

password-protected intranet."

The personnel information will be written onto the Common Access Cards

that the Pentagon plans to begin issuing in January. The digital identification

cards will be equipped with public-key infrastructure to bolster security.

The Air Force aims to obtain the cards from the General Services Administration,

which chose five companies in May to supply an estimated $1.5 billion worth

of smart cards and services to government agencies.

The five prime contractors on the governmentwide Smart Access Common

Identification contract will produce microchip-equipped cards capable of

supporting multiple applications, such as personal identification and access

to buildings and computers.

"We would like to get this capability through the Common Access Card

when that comes up," said Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Stump, a manager at the

battlelab.

Having deployment readiness information on the card will provide many

advantages, Stump said, including creating a backup system in case the information

cannot be accessed via a local-area network. Deployed commanders could also

use the cards to update information in the database as service members rotate.

In addition, the data could be instantly updated each time a service

member's status changes, such as after he or she receives a flu shot. The

whereabouts of service members could also be tracked.

"This gives us a capability we didn't have before," Stump said. "Now,

we can track a person and determine their readiness at a glance for 594

different data items. In an air expeditionary force, people might be deployed

from five different bases. This will allow the deployed commander to build

up that database on the fly from the cards and to watch the readiness as

people come and go."

"We can track an individual [to] where they are last checked in, whether

they're in a meeting, in a class, or deployed in Zimbabwe," Stump added.

"You can watch your people and know when Johnny's coming home."

In August, officials from the Air Force Air Expeditionary Force Battlelab

will recommend to the Air Force Joint Requirements Oversight Council that

the DPART program be adopted servicewide. Although the technology was developed

at an Air Force battlelab, both the Army and Navy have shown interest in

using the system.

The program is undergoing a business case analysis to ensure that it

will be affordable. The battlelab has spent about $800,000 on the 18-month

effort to evaluate the technology at the Idaho battlelab and at Hurlburt

Field, Fla.

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