Navy, Air Force progress on sharing portal apps

The U.S. military services are discussing the possibility of sharing software applications on their respective portals, a move that could be a first step toward developing joint portal applications.

John Gilligan, the Air Force's deputy chief information officer, and Navy CIO Dan Porter have reached a verbal agreement to explore portal applications considered ripe for sharing, Gilligan said at last week's Air Force Information Technology Partnership Day conference in Montgomery, Ala. The two officials are expected to discuss a sharing agreement with the Army during an upcoming lunch with CIOs from across the Defense Department.

During the next month or more, the Navy and Air Force will search for applications with "read-only" access, such as white papers and financial management functions. But the two services will also explore other possibilities, such as personnel management applications.

The benefits of sharing portal applications include streamlined services and cost savings. "The cost is key, but I think down the road, one of our visions would be that perhaps we can both use the same engine. We can also use the same staff to be able to provide support functions, so it's really efficiency of our limited resources and leveraging centers of expertise and excellence within the respective services," Gilligan said.

"We're now seeing that this is maybe the way to offer the capability to let members in each service see the benefits of the tools that are available in the other services," he said. Eventually, that might lead to eliminating service- specific capabilities, he added.

The adoption of new technologies helps make this the right time for sharing portal applications, said a Navy spokeswoman, who asked not to be identified.

"Within both the Navy and the Air Force, trusted relationships are developed with other authenticated users within their respective departments. The [two services'] portal teams have met and are cautiously optimistic they can develop a process" to establish such trusts, the spokeswoman said. That will be especially true as DOD rolls out its Common Access Card, which will allow public-key infrastructure and digital signature capabilities.

Many issues remain unresolved — such as access security and privacy — but Gilligan said he hopes to have some applications available for sharing later this year.

The sharing agreement represents a new attitude among the services that emphasizes cooperation rather than competition, according to the Air Force deputy CIO. He cited fruitful discussions not only with Porter on portals, but also with Lt. Gen. Pete Cuviello, the Army CIO, and Dave Borland, the Army deputy CIO, on other IT issues.

"The cooperation between the parties is unprecedented, and I think we're now past the expectation that each community has to solve problems individually," Gilligan said.

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