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Platform provides collaboration behind firewall

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (AFNS) -- The Defense Department's secure collaborative platform has expanded beyond the Army to include more members of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, providing behind-the-firewall access to a collection of secure knowledge management tools mirroring popular social media platforms.

DOD common access card holders can access the milSuite enterprise edition release at https://www.milsuite.mil.

The milSuite community consists of more than 140,000 individuals from the active services and DOD's civilian and contractor work forces dedicated to a more connected military, officials said. The change is expected to broaden the user base and facilitate joint knowledge sharing.

"People across the Department of Defense are collaborating on programs and efforts in ways that were impossible prior to milSuite's secure, professional networking capabilities," said Army Brig. Gen. N. Lee S. Price, the program executive officer for Army tactical command, control and communications in an office known as PEO C3T. "MilSuite provides a valuable opportunity to synchronize efforts across separate services, so we can work as one."

The secure capabilities include milWiki, a living military encyclopedia editable by subject matter experts; milBook, a professional networking tool providing communities of practice; milBlog, a place to share and comment on internal news and events; and milTube, a video-sharing capability for the military work force. The technology is similar to what users are familiar with at home: wikis, blogs, social networking sites such as Facebook, and media-sharing sites such as YouTube and Flickr.

U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command has used milWiki to promote online collaboration of Army field manuals, allowing the knowledge and experiences of Soldiers conducting operations to be rapidly incorporated into doctrine.

Users have leveraged milBook to share lessons learned and best practices on enterprisewide technologies and to bring hundreds of people into communities of practice centered on chaplaincy, medicine, tactical communications and more.

Army Maj. Jerome Scott Loring, who leads a milBook group for people who provide educational services to the Army National Guard, said the forum has connected officers across the 54 U.S. states and territories supported by the National Guard Bureau on topics such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

"We can post an issue, (and) people can comment, discuss (or) raise issues in a secure environment," Major Loring said. "You can reach everyone in a way that doesn't clog up e-mail in-boxes."

MilSuite builds on the Web 2.0 model of community content and participation to streamline business processes while tapping a broader knowledge base, officials said. The tools are integrated with one another and linked by a Google search appliance so users can locate the specific resources they need.

With network firewall protection, users from all branches and organizations can share official unclassified internal information and engage in dialogue.

MilSuite is assigned to the MilTech Solutions Office, a government organization of PEO C3T.

"This is a significant development for the way we communicate across the Department of Defense," said Emerson Keslar, the director of MilTech Solutions and one of the architects of the milSuite project. "At a time when we are all focused on efficiencies, milSuite is one way we can overcome the geographic and organizational divisions of the military community to share information instantly."

(Emily Gee, a Symbolic Systems intern who supports MilTech Solutions, contributed to this article.)

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