COMMENTARY

Winkler: AKO is so much more than e-mail

Gary Winkler, founder of Cyber Solutions and Services, served more than eight years in the Senior Executive Service for the Army's CIO and acquisition organizations.

The Defense Department is faced with huge challenges in accomplishing critical missions in the new era of declining federal budgets. Unprecedented levels of efficiency must be achieved for organizations to effectively accomplish their missions in that fiscal environment.

In the 1990s, when the nation was focused on balancing the federal budget, knowledge management became a way to work smarter and do more with less, as the saying went. During that period, the Army began to weave knowledge management policies and practices into all operations, creating Army Knowledge Online in the late 1990s and creating a chief knowledge officer position, which I filled from 2003 to 2007. In 2005, the AKO program office created Defense Knowledge Online (DKO), which still serves hundreds of thousands of DOD users.

AKO has become the Army’s “secret sauce.” It provides powerful multiplier effects for nearly every major effort and system, stretching budgets, developing personnel and enhancing unit operations. For example, AKO provides identity, authentication and help-desk services for more than 1,000 applications. By providing those services centrally rather than requiring unique services for each application, the Army saves more than $500 million per year. That is a budget multiplier.

From a force-multiplier perspective, AKO provides real-time reachback across the globe. One example is foreign language translation services, in which documents captured from enemy combatants are uploaded into AKO, sent back to linguistic experts in the United States for immediate translation and then returned to tactical combat units for appropriate action. Scarce human resources are optimized without endangering more lives in combat zones.

As the Army seeks to reduce its military and civilian workforce by more than 30,000 people by 2015, AKO’s multiplier effect for personnel development will be critical. Through AKO’s capabilities to locate any person or specialist in the Army and capture and transfer that knowledge to other people and organizations, Army personnel will be able to accomplish their missions with reduced manpower support.

In the past year or two, AKO’s relevance has been questioned by some senior officials who think its main value lies in providing e-mail to every soldier, civilian, retiree and family member. But enterprise knowledge management — not enterprise e-mail — is the true value proposition of AKO.

However, because AKO’s e-mail capability was designed to scale to all of DOD and enhance knowledge management features within the Web portal, it cannot be ripped out to provide any savings. There is no equivalent to AKO, and there is no economical, timely way to replace it or its capabilities, including e-mail.

Keeping in mind that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are AKO/DKO’s most important customers, their use and feedback is proof of the real value of AKO. Almost 500,000 users log into AKO/DKO every workday, with as many as 200,000 daily log-ins on holidays and weekends. And our service members depend on it for much more than e-mail. AKO’s knowledge management mission is to securely connect those who know with those who need to know. It has woven many capabilities together to capture, store and transfer knowledge.

And let’s not forget AKO/DKO’s potential to serve other federal agencies. The Veterans Affairs Department is considering putting 1,000 users on AKO instead of building its own knowledge management solution.

The end result is a capability multiplier relative to budgets, people and organizations. Now more than ever, we need to capitalize on that investment. AKO/DKO is the Army’s — and potentially DOD’s — secret sauce.

About the Author

Mr. Winkler is a defense and information technology executive with a 25-year track record of success on leading edge programs and policies. He started his career with Defense Contractors working new weapons system programs, intelligence systems, and Information Technology (IT) advancements. Mr. Winkler served a Program Manager for Major Defense Acquisition Programs, to include those that were either just being started or in need of fixing. As a member of the Senior Executive Service he reported to the Army’s CIO/G-6 as the Army’s first Chief Knowledge Officer and Principal Deputy for Governance and Acquisition, where he established Army IT Policy, Processes and Personnel Development Programs for five years. In his last Government assignment as Program Executive Officer for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS), Mr. Winkler commanded a $4 billion/year organization of 2,500 professional to deliver new enterprise systems supporting finance, logistics, personnel, communications infrastructure, biometrics, medical and warfighting functions. He worked across all Military Departments, DoD Agencies, the OSD staff, and the Congressional Staff. He was twice awarded the Presidential Rank Award, is a two-time recipient of the Secretary of the Army’s Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service, was recognized with industry awards such as Government Computer News’ Defense Executive of the Year, the Association for Federal Information Resource Management Executive Leadership Award, e-Gov Institute’s Knowledge Management Award, and Federal Computer Week’s “FED100”. He recently started an IT and Cyber technology company, Cyber Solutions & Services, Incorporated, to help infuse the latest IT and Cyber technology into government operations to improve operational effectiveness, and efficiencies.

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