Army CTO pushes 'federation of sites'

The Army's chief technology officer said he would love to see the Army Knowledge Online portal and the Navy training and Marine Corps procurement portals develop into a "federation of sites."

However, Col. Robert Coxe Jr., the Army's retiring CTO and the driving force behind AKO, said that it would take some time. "It's tough enough to get the Army to play internally with Army, but we need to start talking and I think we'll be ready for the next level."

Already they share one thing in common. The Navy and Marine Corps both recently selected Appian Corp. as the software provider for their respective enterprise portal projects, and the company is also behind the AKO.

Coxe said he is pleased with the work the vendor has done. Late last year Appian had the AKO portal up and running in about three months "and it all worked."

"They are as dedicated as we've been," Coxe said, adding that some employees had to be sent home in the early days of AKO after putting in more than 24 consecutive hours of work.

AKO provides Army news, distance-learning opportunities, e-mail accounts, a search engine, chat capabilities and an enterprise collaboration center for service personnel around the world.

Appian's portal work with the Marine Corps is focused on procurement, while the Navy site will be used largely for training.

The AKO portal has more than one million active accounts and usage is growing everyday, said Marc Wilson, AKO project manager at Appian. One day last month, there were 90,000 total AKO sessions, which was a record at the time, but on Aug. 20, there were 130,000, Wilson said. There are about 70,000 different users touching the system on a daily basis, and 40 percent of active force is visiting AKO at least monthly, he said.

"That's not only numbers, but [a testament to] the depth of the tool," Wilson said.

The next application planned for inclusion on AKO is a group capability that would go beyond simply e-mail to include instant messaging and other tools. Coxe said the Army wants to provide its organizations that ability to not only create personalized groups, but also to horizontally link them. He added that the only additional cost involved with that feature would be storage, which can be obtained relatively cheaply today.

Wilson said users will also be able to apply security and filtering in the groups, "and the groups within the groups all dynamically on-the-fly by the people who need it or need to send it." The feature should be available by the end of this year, he said.

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