Coast Guard portal on course

The 80,000 Coast Guard employees and volunteers across the country, at sea and abroad soon will be able to tap a centralized online resource for important information.

The Coast Guard on Monday awarded a five-year, $4 million blanket purchase agreement to Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Public Sector Organization to build its portal, known as Homeport.

The Coast Guard's first step is to consolidate information published by its various offices. That information resides on about 20 Web servers on the agency's intranet and is maintained by hundreds of Webmasters, said Lt. Tom Shelton, Homeport project manager for the Coast Guard.

A Homeport prototype has been developed, and a basic portal should be up within a month, Shelton said, explaining that "It won't have all the features but will cast a better vision for the organization."

Under terms of the agreement, HP Public Sector will develop and deploy the portal. HP will use BroadVision Inc.'s InfoExchange and One-to-One Publishing suites to form the software infrastructure.

Bruce Klein, general manager for federal sales at HP, said the company's own employee portal served as a model for the Coast Guard project. HP spent $20 million on its portal and experienced a return of $50 million within six months. "That helped win the deal with the Coast Guard," he said.

The second phase of Homeport enhancements will include putting the Coast Guard's policy documents, such as unit and area instructions and messages from the commandant, on the Web. "We're looking at the whole process of making it easily printed and on the Web," Shelton said. "It's a re-purposing of content."

Nathaniel Heiner, the Coast Guard's chief knowledge officer, said portals are popping up all over the federal space because agencies "have completed their intranet infrastructure and now find their internal information no longer accessible by utilities such as Yahoo or AltaVista."

Heiner said Homeport will be developed with the special security and bandwidth needs of each user community so that people don't have to learn a new system. "We need to connect Coasties with their counterparts elsewhere in the organization, even when they do not know each other."

Subsets of the information from Homeport eventually will be made available via extranet or Internet sites to other government agencies and the public at large when the portal is completed in six to eight months, Shelton said.

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