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AKO to become 'For Official Use Only'

It is being reported that AKO will be 'For Official Use Only' by December 2011.  AKO will close to everyone that does not have a CAC card.  Typically this includes family members, retirees and friends.  It is stated that a new website called GTSY will become available for those without CAC cards early next year.

See the below article for details.

New site coming for those without CACs

Army Knowledge Online has weaknesses, officials with the system acknowledge, and said new changes will make the Web portal faster, its search more agile and social networking functions more accessible through an entirely new Army portal called GTSY.

The Army plans to block access to AKO for all but Common Access Card holders, and provide friends, family and retirees — who are typically not eligible for CACs — with password access to GTSY, pronounced “gutsy.”

The Army personnel (G-1) program is set to launch www.gtsy.com early next year.

By December 2011, AKO and 600 other Army sites must be accessible only through the use of military-issued CACs and CAC readers, according to a Pentagon-level policy directive. The password and security question combination used today will no longer function, officials said.

This move is meant to allow only the Army’s active work force to have access to information considered “For Official Use Only,” said Joel Robinson, AKO chief of security. AKO will remain an active work tool, and GTSY is envisioned as the non-FOUO site for socializing and networking among soldiers, friends, family and retirees.

“We’re going to split AKO into two communities,” said Col. Earl Noble, head of AKO’s parent agency Network Enterprise Management. “Non-CAC holders will still have that non-FOUO place to socialize that we promised people they can do. So, you’re actually gaining capability, because GTSY is way beyond what we have today.”

GTSY will be accessed via password, without security questions. It will work along some of the same principals as Facebook. In addition, it will deliver Army messages and an Army-specific marketplace for its users like Craigslist.

“It used to be that you go to the PX and look at bulletin boards, but we’re in the 21st century,” Kenneth Fritzsche, AKO product director, said of GTSY’s marketplace. “When you’re getting ready to move, you can sell stuff at Fort Belvoir, and when you get to Fort Bragg, you can buy stuff from people moving from Fort Bragg.”

Officials acknowledged that AKO is slow, overly secure and difficult to search, in answer to soldiers polled by Army Times who criticized the system. Noble said he was aware of issues raised in the Nov. 29 issue of Army Times.

“Nothing I read in that article was new to me because we always try to respond and improve things, and we need that feedback if we’re going to get better,” he said.

Efforts are underway to improve AKO, and soldiers should soon see better search capability, speed and storage capacity, officials said.

Plans include replacing 180 aging servers at the Fort Belvoir, Va., data center and a secret backup facility with 124 new blade servers, said Mike Bridges, AKO’s chief engineer. The new servers will be smaller, more power-efficient, and contain three times the computing power and five times the memory.

Bridges said AKO is also working on plans to provide all e-mail accounts with 1 gigabyte of storage.

With the new servers and AKO’s efforts with 9th Signal Command to upgrade Army networks, AKO users should soon expect to see a difference, Bridges said.

“We’ll be able to increase capability on search, we’ll have more search-engine servers up and running, there’s more storage, and the users will see better response times,” he said.

The Army is working on standardizing its computer equipment and consolidating networks. There are 147 installations with their own sub-networks, and making connections between these sub-networks, particularly with Army security, can be complicated, inefficient and slow, said Bridges.

“There is a speed issue, but it’s not just AKO, it’s the network,” Bridges said. “We’re working with Army and DoD networking to provide a better service to the soldiers.”

AKO officials said improvements have been slow in coming because the panel that governs AKO requirements has not been convened in more than a year. Also, the Army Chief Information Office/G-6, which chairs the board, has most recently funded the program at $67 million, the minimum, they said. (Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson retired as CIO in November and his deputy, Mike Kreiger, is acting CIO.)

“That’s part of the user frustration, that they’re not seeing a lot of changes on AKO, primarily because we’re not receiving a lot of requirements,” Fritzsche said. “The G-6 has funded us at the ‘barely-keep-the-lights-on level,’ as opposed to the ‘let’s-do-some-new-and-cool-stuff’ level.”

A switch to CAC-only access would likely trigger more use of CAC readers, the peripheral that connects CACs to computers. Asked how AKO would handle the influx of related technical support issues, Noble said he expects the contractors at the Army’s enterprise service desk “to handle any technical question people have.”

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