19 December 2007

Venting - progress

It is, they say, a digital world now. And I suppose they're right. At the conference I attended last week, I heard a senior officer proudly proclaim that ran a "digital brigade."

The Army has indeed embraced technology. In my early Marine Corps days, they had just begun to require direct deposit of pay. Everything was still done with real paper, though.

Not so anymore, and definitely not in the Army. In the Modern Army, we have systems. Oh good Lord, do we have systems.

The greatest of them all, the big granddaddy, is Army Knowledge Online (AKO).

The Army's Enterprise Portal, Army Knowledge Online (AKO), is a primary component of the Army Knowledge Management (AKM) strategy and The Army Transformation. As the single point of entry into a robust and scalable knowledge management system, AKO is strategically changing the way the Army does business. By enabling greater knowledge sharing among Army communities, AKM fosters improved decision dominance by commanders and business stewards in the battle space, organizations, and Army's mission processes.

AKO is mandatory. It "embraces" a mildly-secure email system that is also mandatory. AKO requires frequent password changes, and all passwords must be between 8 and 37 characters, include at least two capital and seven lower-case letters, a number of numerals equal to the number of letters divided by your paygrade, and several special characters.

This password periodically, you will learn, must be reset using your Common Access Card (CAC). First you must go to an ID card facility and ensure your CAC has current "certificates," then if you don't want to drive to an Army facility, you must buy a card reader, download the approved CAC software from the AKO website, and figure out how to install it. Then you must log in with your CAC, remember and enter your 4-16 digit CAC pin, and change your AKO password.

You do this so you can then access all the ancillary systems and fulfill requirements.

You can create special IDs and satisfy classroom requirements (driver ed, risk management, brain injury). You can download more software and figure out how to have a "digital signature" so you can sign paperwork that is a requirement. Best of all, you can gain access to the Great Big Security Website to try to sort out your security clearance issues (because that is also a requirement).

The Great Big Security system is adorable. Really, it's been making me giggle like a pedophile at Chuck E. Cheese for the past few days.

See, I've had a security clearance (a boring one, not a Tom Clancy novel clearance) for years now. And at some point, apparently, I used this goddam Great Big System to enter the information required for renewing it.

And when I did, I was forced to set up (you're going to love this term - it's precious) Golden Questions. You know, to really really verify who I am in case the Muj steals my social security number.

1 - How many brothers do you have?
2 - What is your mother's maiden name?
3 - What was your first pet's name?

This is really, really not complex. I know all of these things, and cannot fathom a point in my adult life when there would have been any confusion about any of them.

But can I supply the correct answers? Apparently freakin' not. Of course, pointing out that there really isn't any way my clearance is expired and that there's a large trail of evidence to that conclusion isn't an option. I must access the Great Big System and interact with it.

Which cannot happen unless I can figure out how on earth I may have chosen to indicate my only-child status whenever it was I set these Golden Questions up.

So I have a toll-free number to call the Security Clearance People, who I am sure have some really charming system set up for those of us who cannot answer our "Golden Questions."

They're going to waterboard me. I know it. I'm going to be out in my garage, shivering and spluttering while grim-faced DoD civilians stand over me.

"The dog's name! Give us the dog's name!"

Scruffy! The dog's name was Scruffy!