No more passing the buck.
The U.S. Army has enlisted IBM and a handful of other companies to create an automated record-keeping system that ends the need for electronic forms to be printed out, signed and delivered up the military service's chain of command.
IBM, the world's largest computer company, together with PureEdge, an electronic forms supplier, and Silanis, a digital signature technology maker, said Thursday it has created a complete system to take the paperwork out of Army bureaucracy.
Terms were not disclosed. The project is being managed by contractor Enterprise Information Management Inc.
When fully implemented over the next decade, the forms management system could save well over a billion dollars a year in unnecessary paperwork and administrative procedures, according an Army Audit Agency report.
"It's anticipated it will offer $1.3 billion in cost avoidance per year," Jim Acklin, the civilian project manager working for the Army Publishing Directorate, said of the potential cost savings the project hopes to realize.
The Army now relies on up to an estimated 100,000 different forms for everything from supply-ordering and pay-disbursement to medical record keeping and the awarding of citations.
Currently, the Army has the ability to convert paper-based forms into digital files that can be located on an official Army Web site.
But while it is possible to fill-in the form and store the data electronically, users have been forced to print a paper copy, manually sign and then hand-carry or mail the form to complete many authorization processes.
"You have no way of knowing in today's environment what the status of any previous action is," said Acklin, who works for EIM, the project's contractor. "An electronic content management will allow all these processes to be tracked."
The new single, centralized, document warehouse is comprised of XML-based forms, digital signature approval technology and content management software from IBM that will help the Army to automate the entire form-completion process.
It will be used by the 1.4 million direct and indirect employees of the Army, which includes both uniformed staff, reservists and civilian contractors, Acklin said. In an average year, they fill out some 15 million forms, according to IBM.
A performance appraisal system for officers and noncommissioned personnel is to be the first application and is now under development, he said.
The project is part of the Army's Forms Content Management Program (FCMP). IBM, PureEdge and Silanis were chosen for their ability to make their standard, commercially available technologies work within the Army's online system.
IBM, which is based in Armonk, New York, is providing the content management system based on its DB2 database system.
The other two suppliers are Canadian companies. PureEdge is headquartered in Victoria, British Columbia. Silanis is based in a suburb of Montreal.