ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 25, 2013) -- As the 13th Theater Financial Management Support Center (TFMSC) prepared to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012, the unit realized there was no secure, single location for financial management units to access and share key information before entering theater.

"The TFMSC used several different knowledge management tools, but during our deployment planning, we realized we could not access the information and procedures that were hosted on the theater networks until we were already deployed," said Warrant Officer 1 Pamela Dallas, who serves as the chief information management officer for the 13th TFMSC.

To address this need, the 13th TFMSC created both an informational portal and a collaborative group for the Army's theater financial management community on the Department of Defense's (DoD) professional networking capability, milSuite.

"Our sites on milSuite, a portal on milWiki and a group on milBook, are intended to fill the information gap for Soldiers between preparing to come to theater and actually being in theater," said Col. Eric Zellars, director of the 13th TFMSC, which supports the 1st Theater Sustainment Command. "The sites allow us to document our processes in theater right now. They will also help my Soldiers make sense of their experiences in theater once they leave, and they will help prepare other Soldiers by giving them the necessary knowledge before they deploy."

MilBook, a professional networking application, and milWiki, a secure military encyclopedia, are components of milSuite -- a DoD-wide, secure suite of four collaboration tools that mirror existing social media platforms such as Facebook, Wikipedia and YouTube, but are located behind the DoD online firewall. MilSuite is cleared for Unclassified/For Official Use Only information. It is accessible to all DoD military, civilian and contractor personnel through Common Access Card authentication at https://www.milsuite.mil.

As TFMSC units rotate in and out of theater, they can leverage the milSuite sites to document best practices and processes in order to perform their mission. The units provide technical advice and oversight to senior commanders on all financial management operations.

Zellars and other leadership from the 13th TFMSC use their portal on milWiki to distribute policies, guidance and business processes pertaining to job functions such as financial operations, cash management, banking and electronic commerce. Additionally, training materials and videos are hosted on the portal to allow current and incoming units to learn deployment-specific skills prior to arrival.

The milBook group allows Soldiers and Marines from the two financial management support units and 10 financial management support detachments currently supported by the 13th TFMSC to collaborate on a host of issues affecting financial operations throughout theater. The forum has already helped the TFMSC units revise several existing policies in real time and share information related to critical financial system downtime and key business process changes.

For example, a unit supported by the 13th TFMSC found a previous disbursing policy was flawed because the TFMSC did not take into account the needs of a particular group of personnel. When the unit commander posed a question about the topic on a milBook discussion, the TFMSC revised the disbursing policy and posted it to the milWiki portal, for the benefit of all Soldiers in theater.

"The use of milSuite helps our financial managers in and out of theater to gain situational awareness and prevent units from repeating the same issues or problems from previous deployments," Zellars said. "MilSuite is allowing us to make sure that the story is consistent from rotation to rotation and that business processes are only changed when a situation demands it."

When they leave theater, the 13th TFMSC intends to leave the milSuite sites operational for the Soldiers who replace them.

"This will give rotating units a handbook to address any issues encountered, as well as the best processes and techniques to deal with them," said Dallas. "We expect these sites will clearly document the unclassified information for financial management for the war, but will also ultimately become the home for all financial managers to collaborate and share knowledge."

The 13th TFMSC 's efforts were recently recognized in the best of milBook 2012 awards in the "Engaging Customers" category. The annual awards recognize individuals and organizations across the DoD for innovative efforts in collaboration and professional networking through milBook.

"We are proud to be able to support deployed Soldiers and Marines to better perform their mission, and wanted to recognize how our innovative users such as the 13th TFMSC were able to adapt the milSuite tools to meet their organization's needs," said Tom Curran, milSuite product director. "This unit has become a role model for milSuite users who seek ways to enhance and streamline their processes."

MilSuite is assigned to the Army's Program Executive Office, Command, Control, Communications-Tactical Military Technical Solutions Office. The 13th TFMSC is based in Fort Hood, Texas.