Air Force rolling out XML e-forms

Air Force Publishing

The Air Force has selected an Extensible Markup Language-based electronic forms solution that will enable personnel worldwide to avoid having to save multiple files and include an ink signature when filling out e-forms.

Information Management Tool viewer software from PureEdge Solutions Inc. will replace the FormFlow software the Air Force has been using. The service is converting 18,000 e-forms that are used by more than 700,000 service members worldwide, said Carolyn Watkins-Taylor, director of the Air Force Departmental Publishing Office (AFDPO).

Watkins-Taylor said there are three main advantages to the PureEdge solution:

* Digital signature capability.

* Encapsulation of the electronic form and all related data, including attachments, in one document.

* Using the XML standard, which enables agencies to "tag" data and documents so it is easier to exchange information among systems. That also positions the Air Force for easier integration with back-end processes.

"They really like the ad hoc routing," which enables users to e-mail forms back and forth, Watkins-Taylor said, adding that users also can "sign everything on the form in one place."

"The problem before was that users would save a [partially completed form] and then not be able to find it. Now it looks like a Microsoft Word document; they name and save it," she said.

"The biggest push has been for the digital signatures. The Air Force has not given our program certification yet," she said, but that is expected by March 2003.

Work also is being done to integrate the XML-based e-forms directly into the Air Force's back-end systems as well as processes supplied by other vendors, including IBM Corp., Hummingbird Ltd. and BroadVision Inc., said Brian Nutt, PureEdge's chief operating officer. "We will continue to concentrate on the seamless integration with other back-end systems."

About 95 PureEdge forms already are available on the AFDPO Web site, and the service is now focused on the mass conversion of about 3,000 forms in the AFDPO inventory, which should be completed by mid-March, with all 18,000 Air Force forms converted by next November, Watkins-Taylor said.

Training is another key focus area and the AFDPO has developed a computer-based training course to familiarize Air Force personnel with the new IMT Viewer, which can be found online at {http://www.e-publishing.af.mil/publishing_tools.asp#IMTCBT} www.e-publishing.af.mil/publishing_tools.asp#IMTCBT.

Technology integrator Enterprise Information Management, based in Rosslyn, Va., is managing the overall project. In addition, along with PureEdge and other contractors, the integrator is helping to supply the Air Force with customized training tools, Nutt said.

The Air Force tested the PureEdge solution at 10 bases worldwide this year before awarding the Victoria, British Columbia-based company a $7.5 million contract in September.

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