WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 20, 2009) -- The Army is migrating all of its Windows-based computers to Microsoft's Vista operating system to bolster Internet security and standardize its information systems.
The systems change, which includes swapping Office 2003 for Office 2007, is set to be completed by Dec. 31.
About half of the Army's 744,000 desktop computers have already installed Office 2007, estimated Dr. Amy Harding, director of Enterprise Information Technology Services for the Army's G-6. She said about 13 percent of the computers have migrated so far to VISTA.
The migration was mandated in a Fragmentary Order published Nov. 22, 2008. It was sent out Army-wide as FRAGO 2 to Department of the Army Executive Order 056-05.
"It's for all desktop computers on the SIPR and NIPRNET," Harding said, referring to both the classified and unclassified networks. She added that the only exemptions are standalone weapons systems.
First-time Vista users will discover added support for data encryption, a new Windows Explorer, upgraded icons and navigation structure. There are also graphical replications of clock, calendar, weather and Outlook mail functions.
The switch to Office 2007 actually began earlier than the Vista migration, Harding said.
The new Office suite provides more straightforward document security, according to reviews, which add there's better integration throughout applications. But the new tools interface is not always intuitive and many reviews say there's a steep learning curve.
In the continental United States, the Army has installed Vista so far in about 44,000 computers. Fort Campbell, Ky., is leading the charge with more than 5,350 computers migrated to Vista, according to G-6 data.
Fort Stewart, Ga., has about 3,800 computers installed with Vista. Fort Lewis, Wash., and Fort Drum, N.Y., both have more than 2,150 computers migrated.
Fort Jackson, S.C., has just over 1,000 of more than 7,500 computers converted to Vista. But Directorate of Information Management officials there say they are on track to meet the December deadline.
"The goal is to minimize the impact to the installation's training mission," said Marcus D. Good, chief of the Information Technology Systems Support Division at DOIM.
"We want to handle this migration in a way that makes sense to the organizations fielded."
"As for the impact on Fort Jackson, the DOIM has been working with the installation's IT professionals and Information Management Officers from many different organizations to test Vista in a controlled and limited deployment," Good said.
Fort Jackson's DOIM officials say the initiative will strengthen Army LandWarNet security by reducing opportunities for hackers to access and exploit government computer systems.
"The Army has been testing Vista since its release and has run it through the Army Golden Master program. The Army Golden Master program is responsible for the release of the Army standard baseline configurations for commonly used computing environments within the Army Enterprise Infrastructure, the team responsible for making sure applications that ran on XP will run on Vista," Good said.
As with the implementation of any new technology, there will be challenges to overcome -- not to mention this will be a change for users who have gotten comfortable with Windows XP and Office 2003. The new look and feel will take some time to adjust to, Good said.
The Soldier Support Institute staff was first to begin migrating to the new operating system at Fort Jackson.
Sharon Reed, chief of IT at the Soldier Support Institute said the division is providing several resources to facilitate the transition for its employees and customers.
"During this process, we are offering several in-house training sessions, helpful quick-tip handouts and free Army online training," Reed said.
Reed added that because several of the division's employees already use Vista and Office 2007 at their homes, it has shortened the learning curve for SSI overall.
The 171st Infantry Brigade started the Vista system last week, said Lashanda Howard, DOIM Vista migration project leader.
Howard said the roll-out is well planned and strategic. Classroom computers, dayroom and kiosk computers, new computers (such as life cycle replacement computers) and computers with minimal impact to mission readiness will be part of the initial implementation.
Soldiers and employees who have never used the operating system, can preview it and begin training by visiting http://usarmy.skillport.com and https://train.gordon.
(Delawese Fulton writes for the Fort Jackson Leader newspaper.)