AKO lacks funding for backup

The Army Knowledge Online (AKO) portal has more than 955,000 accounts and is adding about 2,500 daily, but it does not have the funding necessary to set up a "mirror" site, which is an intolerable risk, according to the service's chief technology officer.

"It's a funding issue plain and simple," said Col. Robert Coxe, the Army CTO, during his April 23 presentation at the Army Small Computer Program's Information Technology conference in Reno, Nev. "A single point of failure is not acceptable."

The AKO portal, which offers Army news, distance-learning opportunities, lifetime e-mail accounts, a search engine and a chat room for soldiers, civilian employees and retirees, is supposed to be used to conduct most of the service's internal business by July.

It will take more than $100 million to establish a redundant mirror site, and that's largely due to storage and infrastructure costs, Coxe told Federal Computer Week, adding that an implementation plan is ready to go to establish the backup site at an undisclosed, secure location as soon as the dollars become available.

The Army's chief information officer, Lt. Gen. Peter Cuviello, is discussing with the service's budget office diverting some fourth-quarter funding for this initiative, but that would be possible only if a congressional supplement is passed to aid the ongoing war on terrorism, Coxe said. "You can't not fund the war, and you can't not do this."

The Army recently did make an addition to the portal — the Enterprise Collaboration Center, which features document management and sharing capabilities as well as chats for users. The center launched about two weeks ago without any kind of public relations campaign and still drew about 25,000 users in the first week, Coxe said.

"The richness of this portal is not about e-mail," he said. "The richness of this portal is your applications" and being able to get to them in about two clicks. "We want to get you the information as soon as we can."

Most AKO accounts are on the Non-Classified Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNET), but there are about 5,900 Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET) accounts, which military personnel use for accessing classified applications and databases and for secure messaging accounts.

The SIPRNET version offers the same capabilities as the non-classified version, and there is no link between the two for security reasons. SIPRNET users are encouraged to establish NIPRNET accounts if they need to share non-classified data, Coxe said.

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