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CHIPS Articles: Task Force Web Information for Senior Managers

Task Force Web Information for Senior Managers
By Chief Information Office, Bureau of Naval Personnel - April-June 2002
Since Task Force Web (TFW) was chartered and empowered by CNO to act as the catalyst, traffic cop and principal enabler of Web technologies for the Navy, the Bureau of Naval Personnel (BUPERS) along with the Space and Naval Warfare Information Technology Center New Orleans (SPAWAR ITC) has advanced with dogged determination and lead much of the way in implementing this important initiative.

Task Force Web is essentially an Internet portal, which can be tailored to individual users or roles, much like Yahoo. This Navy Portal should not be confused with Navy Marine Corps Internet (NMCI) or IT-21, both of which are interconnectivity efforts for independent networks, located at shore and sea commands respectively. An Internet portal is a Web site considered as an entry point to other Web sites, often by being or providing access to a search engine.

Task Force Web will allow anyone with access capability and user authorization to connect to a vast network of interconnected military and commercial information systems. These information systems will provide on-demand information that is either specific or broad in scope depending on the user's pre-selected preferences. To ensure interoperability among different systems and applications, and comply with SECNAV Data Management and Interoperability policy requirements (SECNAVINST 5000.36), TFW developers will utilize Extensible Markup Language (XML).

BUPERS was assigned four applications to Web enable and migrate to the Navy Portal as part of a VCNO initiative for the Navy to register 50 applications by November 2001. We are happy to report that BUPERS functional managers registered five applications as Navy Portal Plank Owners for the Beta Test that is ongoing. The five Web applications forwarded to TFW are: Officer Data Cards; Officer Summary Cards; Personnel Summary Record; CCD StayNavy Web site, and Web Jass. All have been tested satisfactorily to the Presentation Level of integration, which requires an application or service to have continuity within the TFW browser display. Another success story is the use of the relatively new XML, which allows data to be easily integrated with other applications and defined within the code.

Bravo Zulu to the team leads, Lt. Cmdr. Gehrmann and Mark Crayton, as well as each Tiger Team member for making the Navy's initial TFW goals an obtainable reality. Planning has already begun on charting a course for integrating other Portal applications.

Imagine viewing a Web page just as you do now, but having the capability to manipulate the data that resides on the screen. For example, after accessing a personnel Web site and viewing a list of Sailors with a specific Naval Enlisted Classification (NEC) within your command; you could then import this page into Microsoft (MS) Access and sort, filter, organize, modify, and/or save this information anyway that you wish.

Extensible Markup Language is not just a language, but also a set of components and standards that allows a community of stakeholders to engage in business processes together. Like Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) that is currently used for developing Web pages, XML is an easy to use and understand Web development language.

XML is not just for Web pages: it can be used to store any kind of structured information, and to enclose or encapsulate information in order to pass data between different computing systems that would not otherwise communicate. A Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and VoiceXML browser (telephone or cellular telephone) represent some key examples whereby low bandwidth users will soon benefit from XML. Finally, XML allows groups of people or organizations to create their own customized markup applications for exchanging information with each other without regard to the hardware platform or software that is being used.

The Department of Defense and its component organizations are placing an increasing premium on the ability to access, manipulate, and exchange information flexibly among themselves, with multinational partners, with other federal government organizations, and with commercial information enterprises. Therefore, Navy information systems must be able to operate and interface with each other.

For any services or applications that will be placed on the TFW portal, application compatibility and system interoperability are essential. To ensure that these capability characteristics are met, a specific development migration path must be followed. In the world of IT, migration is a process of moving from the use of one operating environment to another operating environment where new features are exploited, old settings do not require changing, and steps are taken to ensure that current applications continue to work in the new environment.

This usually requires converting the data into some common format that can be output from the old database and input into the new database. For TFW, the migration process would involve moving an application (or service) from interoperability Level 1 or 2 to Level 3 using a standardized structure.

These levels are defined as follows:
Level 3 – Application/Data Integration. Click on a hyperlink, you remain on current page, and a new window pops up.
Level 2 – Presentation. Click on a hyperlink, you remain on current page, and a new window pops up. Cannot manipulate data, view only.
Level 1 – Hyperlink. Click on a hyperlink on the active page and you leave your current page for a new window.

Migration from Level 1or 2 to Level 3 is not simply the process of making a serve or application Web-enabled. It is an in-depth process of making a service or application interoperable with both Navy and commercial systems on a global scale. Obviously, Navy commands will be impacted by such an ambitious effort, as all services and applications to be placed on the TFW portal will require registration and the development of a migration plan.

TFW has continued to progress with a strong focus on determining its compatibility with current applications. To accomplish this, a series of initial milestones were created. The milestones focused on bringing 50 existing applications to interoperability Level 3. To comply with Level 3 interoperability standards, the 50 identified applications will each require testing to determine compatibility with TFW. Those identified as not being compatible will require re-coding.

BUPERS is currently ahead of schedule with five applications registered for BETA testing and 10 additional applications selected for migration to the Navy portal.

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