Army Knowledge Online (AKO) may have stopped being accessible to users at the end of June, but PEO EIS’s Enterprise Content Collaboration and Messaging (EC2M) product office — part of EIS’s Enterprise Services portfolio — officially brought the program to a close on July 26.
“It’s been a good run,” said Lee James, project director for Enterprise Services.
Indeed, PEO EIS helped support AKO, an enterprise web portal providing a variety of tools and technologies to users, since its founding as a general officer email system back in 1998. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the then-Army vice chief of staff declared that all military and civilian employees would be assigned an AKO account for emergency and status messages. At that point, the system took off and gradually expanded its capabilities.
In 2005, under AKO product manager Taylor Chasteen, the Army awarded a contract to industry to manage and administer the portal, which by then was used primarily for file storage, document collaboration, directory services, instant messaging, training and email. The following year, Defense Knowledge Online (DKO) was stood up to provide AKO services to the joint warfighting community.
In 2008, the AKO/DKO project office opened a newly renovated help desk center to serve more Soldiers simultaneously as the portal expanded to more than two million registered users. While DKO eventually shut down, and Army email accounts were migrated to Defense Enterprise Email in 2013, AKO itself forged on. For the last five years, the classified and non-classified versions of the portal continued to be a place for users to store files and conduct training. AKO was, in fact, the only collaborative hub for individuals working with classified information on the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network.
AKO engineers were known for sharing their expertise with teams operating other Army organizations’ websites. They supported the development of the public-facing Army.mil and the “Soldier for Life” site that received national attention on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”
In 2019, Enterprise Services launched AKO 2.0, a modernized version of the portal that was designed to be mobile-friendly and facilitate collaboration via online communities. The system achieved some of its highest usage during the COVID-19 pandemic with over 1.5 million unique visitors monthly. Over 700 applications used AKO addresses to maintain their user databases and provide notifications to users.
In the end, however, the Army’s adoption of cloud computing and newer feature-rich, user-friendly collaborative platforms stole the thunder from AKO, leading to the portal’s gradual defunding. During the month after AKO’s shutdown, the EC2M team remained busy performing important behind-the-scenes tasks — removing assets, closing all plans of action and milestones, updating documentation, migrating files and emails, and ensuring that records management requirements were met.
In the wake of AKO’s departure, another Enterprise Services program has found an opportunity to highlight its offerings to the workforce. The Military Technical Solutions (MilTech) team within Enterprise Services’ Enterprise Computing product office is touting its milSuite application — a CAC-enabled platform hosted on milCloud and available to all DOD organizations — as an alternative to AKO for professional networking, e-learning and knowledge sharing on the non-classified network.
PEO EIS leadership remains grateful to those who supported AKO over the years.
“AKO was the first true portal capability for the entire Army and was a mainstay for Soldiers, both in CONUS and worldwide, for many years,” said John Howell, acting deputy program executive officer. “The AKO team, under our project director for Enterprise Services, is to be commended for all of its hard work over the years in keeping it ready and available for all to use. While it is tough to see it shut down, AKO served its purpose well and will be remembered as such.”