Security Challenges

By Luc Hatlestad  |  Posted 2009-09-16 Print this article Print

When the U.S. Army went looking for ways to cut paperwork costs, it ended up with an unexpected benefit: It saved lives.

Security Challenges

Though data security is a concern of all organizations, for the U.S. military, these issues can have national security implications. An ongoing challenge for the Army has been educating its agencies about the use and legality of digital signatures, including archiving and time-source authority distribution. (The Army was the first Department of Defense [DoD] branch to implement digital signatures at an enterprise level.)

Army computers have built-in security card readers, so users can insert their security badges into a reader to digitally sign a form. “A lot of this technology has been out there for a while, but the DoD turned a corner when it started using ID management,” Maks says. “Now the system knows who I am and that I’m authorized to sign. It locks down the data so it can’t be altered. This is what gives us the ability to do an end-to-end paperless system for the first time.”

Saving Time and Money

In the three years since the project’s implementation, the Army estimates that it has saved more than $28 million and two hours per form via electronic processing for the evaluation forms alone. It projects an annual savings of $1.3 billion in paper-related costs by the time the project is fully deployed across all Army departments.

Maks says the Army is exploring ways to expand its use of IBM Forms. Only about 10 applications having been converted so far, but dozens more will soon be joining the paperless revolution. The most immediate frontiers will involve an e-mail archiving system for which the Army is running a pilot program.

“We tested an IBM e-mail manager module that worked extremely well,” she says. “We’re looking to institutionalize it at the Pentagon, and that would jump-start records management there.” Maks adds that in the wake of the 2007 revelations about the poor record-keeping and negligence at the Walter Reed veterans hospital, the automation of Army medical evaluations will be high on the to-do list, as will digitizing the records for military awards and performance evaluations.

Though the process of bringing the Army’s administration into the digital age is obviously a massive undertaking, Maks reports that they’re off to an encouraging start: More than 80 percent of the Army’s 400,000-plus annual evaluations are now being sent electronically.

“When you’re doing something like this at an enterprise level, it takes awhile to get the capacity built, so we’re trying to take small bites,” Maks reports. “But we are on the leading edge of what anybody’s doing at this point.

“The technology has been there for some time, and we now have the ability to put it all together.”

Luc Hatlestad is a freelance writer for Baseline magazine.

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