DKO losing out in battle for funding

With registered users approaching 1.9 million, Army Knowledge Online is reaching the limits of its scalability.

AKO, now in the process of migrating to Defense Knowledge Online, a departmentwide portal, can accommodate 2 million users, said Col. James Barrineau, program director for AKO/DKO.

“We can’t bring on any more than 150,000 new users without expanding the infrastructure,” Barrineau said at a recent conference sponsored by the Belvoir chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and the Program Executive Office-Enterprise Information Systems.

And the Army may have hit a wall as budgetary processes and other resource constraints are making it difficult for services and agencies outside of the Army to begin contributing their share to DKO, Barrineau said,

“DKO is made up of a coalition of the willing and sometimes not-so-willing,” he said.

Participants in DKO include all of the service branches as well as the Director of National Intelligence, the U.S. Joint Forces Command, the Business Transformation Command and the Defense Information Systems Agency. DISA chose AKO last year  as the model for DKO.

Last month, the Army awarded a task order worth up to $267 million to Northrop Grumman Corp. to develop the portal.

In another significant development, DKO moved in February 2007 to its initial operational capability phase when it implemented “joint unsponsored access” to the portal.

“That means that all DOD personnel have access to portal,“ Barrineau explained.

As a result, demand for access to the portal can be expected to jump to between 4 million and 8 million users, according to Barrineau, “depending on how many come on and how fast.”

JFCOM also recently requested 21,000 DKO accounts for use by NATO forces, Barrineau said. These non-DOD users will require an expansion of the enterprise license for use of the portal, he added.

There are two aspects to DKO’s funding difficulties, Barrineau explained.

“We often have to go to the Army or the joint world and ask for more money,“ he said. “But it is difficult at a time of war, when the priority is to find ways to protect soldiers from [improvised explosive devices],“

A recent DKO board meeting adopted a financial model in which each participant pays for its requirements.

“We talk to the services and agencies about their requirements for DKO,” Barrineau said. “Once they have identified those, they understand they have to pay for them. But getting the funding is a difficult process because they have to reprogram the money from other portal activities. This fiscal year is over in terms of being able to do that. Fiscal 2008 is also closed out.“

As a result, the Army doesn’t expect its DKO partners to start kicking in any serious money before 2009 and 2010.

“This is a multiyear project,“ Barrineau said. “It won’t be completed it in the next six months but probably within the next six years.”

Barrineau plans to have “a real DKO” up and running by October 2009.

Buxbaum is a freelance writer in Bethesda, Md.

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