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E-government: enhancing national security

Innovators throughout the Air Force work in many diverse areas of technology. Those different areas have many overlapping interests, including specific technologies such as advanced materials, software development issues and project management requirements. However, finding all the information related to innovation was difficult, because it exists on many different Web sites throughout the Air Force.

"We recognized the need for a common structure within the innovation community," says Lan Cawthon, chief of the Air Force Innovation and Technology Division. For example, there was no easy way to share the results of an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD), which would prevent a lab from repeating a similar project, or allow it to benefit from previous discoveries. "We could not find relevant, actionable information to make decisions," says Lt. Col. Kurt Kitti, team leader on the project.

With insights gained from past experience in the Air Force and some principles learned from a course in knowledge management at the National Defense University, Cawthon began leading the task of consolidating the innovation-related sites into a single location. When in the field on a previous assignment, Kitti had initiated and developed a knowledge management system that tracked aircraft maintenance, schedules and equipment support, so the concepts were familiar. Support from within the division and from upper levels is strong, and the project is moving forward smoothly.

AFKN serves as the backbone for the Innovation and Technology Knowledge Management site. "In the planning meetings for the innovation site, we realized that the requirements sounded a lot like those for the AFKN," says Neil Huber of Concurrent Technology Corporation, which manages integration for the innovation site. "Leveraging this infrastructure was more efficient than developing a new custom site."

The innovation site contains three primary resources: a Web-enabled front page with subordinate communities of practice (CoPs), online training and the Library for Innovation Knowledge Sharing (LINKS) database, provided by Larry Jess, a director of Analytical Services Inc.. The current communities of practice are ACTD, Warfighter Rapid Acquisition Process, Experimentation, Battlelabs and an internal CoP for SAF/XCOI, which manages the innovation site. The site also offers the capability of finding experts on innovation-related topics. A collaborative component called "Wisdom Exchange" allows interaction with experts after they are located.

In addition, links are being established with other sites in the Air Force and in other organizations that carry out work related to innovation. As the external sites are linked to the Innovation and Technology Knowledge Management site, the information contained on them is indexed. A search engine from Verity (acquired by Autonomy) lets users find information that relates to their areas of interest. The search is conducted from the innovation site, but accesses information at all linked locations as well, greatly simplifying the discovery process.

Providing a single location through which innovators can access information about technology development will enable more efficient use of resources throughout the Air Force. In addition, airmen seeking information on their areas of work will also benefit. They can access information that relates to their day-to-day responsibilities and learn about ongoing technology development that can help them in the future. They can also contribute to an ongoing dialog by stating their needs for new and innovative resources.

"The Innovation and Technology Knowledge Management site will save both time and dollars," predicts Cawthon, "and improve the quality of innovation within the Air Force and beyond it."

Capturing, organizing and accessing information is critical to maintaining homeland security and military strength. "In today's warfighting, the side with the most knowledge wins," says Ramón Barquin, president of the business intelligence firm Barquin International. "The most important job in national security right now is to find ways of maximizing knowledge superiority." 

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