Next generation Web portal testing begins

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The next generation of the Air Force Portal will debut at Langley Air Force Base, Va., on Dec 6.

Air Force people assigned to Air Combat Command headquarters and several other units at Langley will participate in the first command- and base-level test of the redesigned portal.

Air Force Materiel Command, designated lead for integrating organizational content and job-related portal tools, will soon test this initiative at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Integration of portal content and applications from all commands will occur in 2003.

The portal is a vital part of the Air Force's effort to transform and improve the way people work, said John Gilligan, the Air Force's chief information officer.

"While progress has been made, there is still a lot to be accomplished, and the Air Force people at Langley and Wright-Patterson will make an important contribution toward making sure we get it right on behalf of the entire Air Force," Gilligan said.

"The Air Force Portal gives Air Force people the ability to view information needed to do their job without regard to the system managing that information," said Col. Norris Connelly, director of systems and technology in the office of the Air Force's chief information officer. "Ultimately, this means a maintainer stationed anywhere in the world could log on to a computer, check e-mail, get the status of ordered parts, find out the scheduled take-off time for the aircraft that needs those parts, and get information pushed to him based on individual interests and profile, with nothing more than a Web browser loaded on a desktop computer with network access."

When fully operational, the portal will provide a single point of access to the right information, at the right time, in the right format and from any location, Gilligan said.

Portal users will be able to:

-- Personalize the display and delivery of portal information;

-- Take favorite Web site links with them when they travel; and

-- Readily access the best of Air Force content, tools and applications, all organized in a user-friendly format.

The new portal sports a standard look and feel, and standard index and navigation, said Connelly.

"This is a great leap forward," he said. "This means a consistent and reliable online experience."

When accessing information at different commands and bases, the same information from each facility will be in the same place with the same name. While only in the early stages of this standardization process, the portal will significantly simplify finding important and relevant Air Force information, Connelly said.

The portal also allows access to integrated content from desktops and new features so users will not have to remember a laundry list of user names and passwords when they use multiple Air Force sites.

The current portal allows for a reduced logon for registered Web applications such as the virtual MPF, My Pay and others.

One popular tool that will continue to be universally available -- the Air Force White Pages -- allows users to look up contact information on Air Force people.

Connelly said the growing number of Web-enabled applications on the Air Force Portal represents a big break-through for users.

Plans call for the Air Force Portal to serve as the entry point to the Internet for all airmen and civilian employees while at work. Although the current portal is limited to .mil users on the unclassified network, future enhancements will include portal access to classified information via the secure network and access to the unclassified portal via the Internet from any commercial .com Internet service provider, Connelly said.

Besides accommodating every airmen and civilian employee, the portal will eventually be open to Air Force retirees and family members, a universe of more than 1.3 million users, Connelly said. When the portal pilots are launched at Langley and Wright-Patterson, more than 20,000 Air Force people will gain new account privileges to access the online service and give it a test-run.

"The new Air Force Portal represents a great leap forward, providing airmen and civilian employees one-stop information shopping for essential online information," Gilligan said.