Portal open to Pacific region

U.S. Pacific Command has built a new Web portal designed to help build relations and share information with countries in the Pacific region.

The portal, the Asia Pacific Area Network (www.apan-info.net), will also help coordinate response to major crises, such as the rescue and humanitarian efforts in India following the recent earthquake.

The portal calls itself "a starting point for a network of national sites in the Asia-Pacific region."

The site has grown to 1,300 users in 25 countries. Registered users can post information or collaborate on documents of regional interest.

Within the United States alone, users include the Coast Guard, the National Guard, the Customs Service, the State Department and non-governmental volunteer organizations. The Pacific Command also intends to use the site to tie together the rich array of defense colleges in the region, and officials are discussing the effort with Japan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and others.

The site was funded for $2.2 million in 2000 and likely will receive about the same amount this year for the addition of advanced distance-learning tools and remote desktop simulation.

"The rationale behind this site is to give [the Pacific Command commander-in-chief] a new tool in his regional engagement toolbox," said John Reitz, director of the Asia Pacific Area Network for Cubic Applications Inc. "It doesn't replace anything, but it can complement what's out there and reduce number of conferences by doing virtual conferences and eventually do Web-based simulations for exercises."

The site includes pages on emergency management, infectious diseases and natural disasters. Although the fledgling site has not yet been used for coordinating a response to an international crisis, Reitz said it certainly can be.

"The potential is there for them to use it," Reitz said.

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