WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 19, 2013) -- Army retirees and family members need to activate the forwarding function for their Army Knowledge Online email before Dec. 31, officials said, because after then they will no longer be able to access their AKO accounts.

As part of the Army's AKO transition to enterprise services, retirees and family members can have their AKO email automatically forwarded to a commercial email address until the end of 2014. In the past, users could only forward AKO email to a government email address, Army G-6 officials pointed out.

Users may need to update business and billing accounts -- such as utilities, credit card companies, banks and other financial institutions, mailing lists, etc. -- if AKO email was used for these accounts, G-6 officials said. They added that retirees may need to update their MyPay email address to continue getting messages from the Defense and Accounting System.

Even though AKO will no longer be available, retirees and family members can continue to have access to personnel and benefits information on DOD and Veterans Affairs or VA websites through DOD Self-Service Logon, known as DSLogon. During the transition, AKO email addresses can be used to logon to DOD and VA websites until March 31. Starting in April, these websites can only be accessed through DSLogon or an alternate method, officials said.

All Soldiers (active-duty, Guard, Reserve, retirees, veterans) and eligible family members can obtain a DSLogon account which allows access using a single username and password. DSLogon complies with federal security guidelines and provides a secure user experience, according to G-6 officials. They point out that users must be enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System to obtain an account.

For sites not currently using DSLogon, such as MyPay, users must establish an individual username and password.

The Army remains committed to virtually connect with all retirees and family members, officials said. The Army public website, www.army.mil, remains the source of official Army news, information, and social media. It is accessible from any location and on any device.

All Army business processes will move off the current AKO platform onto next-generation enterprise services over the course of several years, G-6 officials said, adding that migration is expected by Fiscal year 2017.

The Army is currently modernizing the AKO infrastructure and services to become more interoperable across DOD to lower cost and to improve efficiency and security, officials said. They explained that the Army is moving toward enterprise services for collaboration, content management, and unified capabilities (including chat, voice and video over IP) which all draw on the identity service underpinning DOD Enterprise Email.

AKO and many official Army sites will only be accessible via the government-issued Common Access Card or CAC. Because retirees and family members are not eligible for CACs, they will no longer have access to AKO.

The Army established AKO in the late 1990s to provide online information services for U.S. Army personnel and then later extended some AKO services to retirees and family members. Services have included email, collaboration, discussion forums, a directory, and direct access to many DOD and VA websites.

(Article written by the Army Chief of Information/G-6 and Program Executive Office -- Enterprise Information Systems.)