Search system answers CALL

Center for Army Lessons Learned

The Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) soon will have an updated search system that will help users keep pace with today's issues.

CALL has long been using Convera's RetrievalWare search system to streamline its research and information-sharing mission, and the latest version of the technology will go a step further, enabling users to "dynamically" classify data based on specific search terms or conditions.

RetrievalWare is a multimedia and cross- and multilingual search system and has been deployed on CALL databases for about nine years, said Scott Lackey, chief CALL's research division.

CALL captures and analyzes lessons learned and best practices and then disseminates them to the Army. Its databases are the Army's principal electronic archive of operational records of selected training exercises, contingency operations and combat training centers.

Lackey would not discuss details about specific research requests, but said that "it does have a lot to do with what's going on in the world," and so requests have been changing in conjunction with the ongoing war on terrorism, as well as potential conflicts in Iraq and North Korea.

Dale Steinhauer, a historian/archivist at CALL, said that RetrievalWare helps the center's staff members search a large volume of material with a precise search engine. "It gets us where we need to go much quicker," he said.

Prior to using the Convera solution, most information requests would take days or weeks to fill, with researchers sifting through paper files. But the electronic system enables requests to be filled anywhere from 15 minutes to a maximum of about three days for the largest and most complex requests, Steinhauer said. He added that if the data is stored in one of CALL's internal databases, an average request is usually completed in minutes. If outside sources are necessary, the job takes about an hour, he said.

But that short turnaround time may be even further reduced with the release of RetrievalWare Version 8.0, which is due out in March, said Jon Lieberman, a senior sales executive at Vienna, Va.-based Convera. Version 8.0 will include a new "dynamic classification" feature that will enable users to sort the most relevant results in different ways.

For example, if a user searched the term "bomb truck" and wanted to know the geographic location of each of the 200 results, that data could be sorted with one click of the mouse. Today, that sorting would take much longer and would require users to read each document, Lieberman said.

"It's a way of looking at the same data through different lenses to get the best understanding," he said.

CALL, based at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., maintains a restricted database for Army personnel only and a public database that is available to anyone with Web access.

About 5,000 Army personnel regularly use the restricted CALL database, which can be accessed from any Internet connection. They typically search for techniques, procedures and research materials while preparing for or engaged in operations or training.

The public database contains a large amount of public information about the Army that has been approved for unlimited dissemination, including academic papers completed by Army personnel and back issues of Military Review, a journal published at Fort Leavenworth. The public database is about 25 GB in size, and the restricted version is two or three times that. There are about 3 million pages contained in all of the databases combined, Steinhauer said.

CALL officials agreed that their greatest concern for future use of RetrievalWare is being able to train remote users and having a simple interface that loads quickly.

Jack Warden, director of federal sales at Convera, said that in preparation for the March release, the company is training its government customers and a few integrators on the dynamic classification feature, and others. The training takes about a week, Lieberman added.

Convera's other government customers include the Navy, the Air Force, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the State Department.

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