What is the Army Knowledge Online?

Army Knowledge OnlineToday’s society is built around ready access to information, and the Army is no exception. While you or I can get to internet through a civilian Internet Service Provider, the US Army uses Army Knowledge Online (AKO) for most of the same functions for service personnel.

In areas where the Army provides all networking and Internet-related infrastructure, AKO acts as the de-facto ISP, and is the gateway through which all security personnel reach the rest of the Internet. In areas where civilian Internet service is also available, AKO effectively acts as the Army’s “work-based network” for Army personnel and guest accounts.

Core Functionality

Army Knowledge Online is accessed via web browser, and offers “enterprise” services that include access to both classified and unclassified data on different parts of the network, including fine-grained security support for restricting access to secured documents. It provides directory and single sign-on capabilities to its services, and acts as an Internet portal for most of the Department of the Army. AKO also provides an AKO-specific email address, and in 2010, has been duplicated across the entire Department of Defense as Defense Knowledge Online.

AKO use at the officer level is dominated by collaboration on planning, at all levels of the Army. It hasn’t entirely replaced the staff meeting or the platoon or company briefing, but it has raised the bar on expected preparation and communication between levels of the Army.

Information Nodes

At the administrative support level, AKO has modules for helping soldiers with several day-to-day functions that are important to the Army. AKO Finance provides access to Army payment and benefits records, including Leave Accrual and Housing Allowances. AKO Medicine provides access to soldier’s medical records, including DNA screenings, results of physical exams and deployment readiness. AKO Education covers all of the Army’s educational operations, including several business classes which can help with promotion and convert to college credit upon separation.

User Base

Every member of the Active Duty, National Guard, Army Reserves and Army Civilian workforce have an account with AKO. Select outside contractors also have an Army Knowledge Online account. Any user with a full account can create web pages viewable only to other AKO account holders, set up file shares that fit the Army’s security protocols, and participate in forums, collaboration-ware and chat/instant messenger systems. It is estimated that half of the Department of the Army accesses AKO on a daily basis.

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AKO is a mixture of custom-coded software modules, and a large number of sand-boxed commercial products. At its foundation, AKO relies on the Appian Business Process Management (BPM) suite, with modifications for stricter access-control lists that can be tailored to specific files and directories within AKO.

AKO was designed for robustness, as it has over 2.5 billion registered users, with over 12 million emails per day, and can handle 350,000 simultaneous logins spread over infrastructure ranging from Fort Hood to Bagram. A complaint about AKO is that its architecture and focus on security makes it more difficult to use, and that it impedes performance and degrades network traffic. For example, AKO accounts requires access through a Common Access Card and a PIN, or a password that contains two uppercase letters, two lowercase letters, two numbers and two special characters, and which must be changed every 150 days, along with answering three questions as a multi-factor security system.

If you’re new to the Army, you’ll want to know what to do with Army Knowledge Online. It’s one of the most important resources the Army provides for you.