Data tool feeds fleet data

Navy's e-business operations office Web site

When a Navy admiral receives the morning reports on the status of ships in fleet, chances are that the commanding officer wants that information to be as accurate and timely as possible.

A new tool being used by the Navy's Second Fleet provides exactly that: timely, accurate information on which the admiral can make his daily decisions. The Integrated Interactive Data Briefing Tool, developed by Herres and Lee Corp. of Springfield, Va. and Microsoft Corp. Consulting Services, allows users to extract and present data from disparate databases using Extensible Markup Language Web services.

"We realized some time ago that most of the data we were using [for the daily briefing report] resides in electronic form," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Eric Higgins, the collaboration officer in the information management division of the second fleet. "But we were taking it out of electronic form, transcribing it and then putting it back into electronic form."

Higgins said the daily report the admiral receives has information about the status of the fleet, its munitions, personnel, readiness and movement. From that information, the admiral can determine ship locations and capabilities, and ways to best position the fleet.

Before the fleet used the data briefing tool, action officers could spend several hours trying to gather relevant information for the daily brief, which could mean the information was several hours old by the time the admiral received it. Also, the brief varies from day-to-day, depending on what information the admiral thinks is relevant.

He doesn't necessarily need to read or see every report each day, Higgins said. So the action officers would have to be prepared regardless of whether they were scheduled to brief.

"It's basically the difference between status and interactive briefing," Higgins said. "Now the daily brief can be changed as quickly as one minute before the report is given."

The use of the tool was a long time coming, Higgins said. The concept first emerged in fall of 2002, and the second fleet applied to the Navy's e-business operations office to give the idea a pilot project status, meaning it would receive a small amount of funding for development and feasibility studies and testing. It received pilot project status in February 2003, was completed and tested in July and went live in August of last year.

Since that time, Higgins said planning offices save on average four to five hours per day on gathering, analyzing and presenting the data.

The rest of the fleet — and the Navy — have yet to adopt the use of the tool, but Harris said the increased adoption of Web services as a way to be more efficient means it's only a matter of time before either the data briefing tool or one similar to it is commonplace. He has also received inquiries from the Air Force, Marines and Army about implementing a similar system within their respective services.

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