WASHINGTON, April 27, 2007 - A new system unveiled today is designed to better prepare servicemembers to operate with other services, government agencies, foreign militaries and non-governmental organizations while reducing the time they spend away from home or their units for military classes.

David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, joined Air Force Gen. Lance L. Smith, commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, at the general's headquarters in Suffolk, Va., to officially cut the ribbon on the new Joint Knowledge Online, or JKO, enterprise portal system.

The system will go live worldwide April 30 to deliver coursework and learning tools for people involved in integrated, joint operations, Smith told reporters during a teleconference following the ceremony.

Chu called JKO a major step in the Defense Department's training transformation effort to improve how it prepares its people for their missions around the world. It recognizes that operations now and in the future will be not just joint, but also integrated, meaning they include elements of other U.S. government agencies, foreign militaries and non-governmental organizations, he said.

"For our forces to be effective in that world, they have to prepare with a joint perspective from the start," he said.

JKO's distance-learning classes will give users a chance to learn or brush up on skills they need to operate in a challenging and constantly changing environment, Chu said.

Smith said JKO's unveiling represents a big step toward improving individual training that helps prepare troops to go to war.

"It makes sure that when our soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines are out there in the field having to fight a war, that those over them, especially in the joint arena, are prepared to make the kind of decisions that need to be made so they can go do their mission, and know that they are trained to do it," Smith said. "So it fills a very important capability for us."

JKO delivers this critical training with consideration to the heavy demands already being placed on their personal time, he said.

"In today's environment, where the operations tempo is so high, ... this will allow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to be able to train in many areas at their own pace, in their own houses or their own workspace without having to take more time away from their family and their units," he said.

For example, one of the portal's first offerings, the Joint Individual Augmentee Module, will replace a week-long resident course that was offered in Suffolk, Va. Rather than receiving orders to attend the resident school, students will receive orders directing them to a specific Web site and telling them how to access the coursework.

Other offerings will shorten resident course time by giving students the basics online before they show up for the first day of class.

With unit rotations sometimes giving troops only a year of "dwell time" at home between deploying, "every day counts," Smith said. "And I think this will go a long way toward easing their training scheme as they prepare to go to Iraq or Afghanistan or whatever else it is that they are going to do."

A particularly unique feature of the new portal is that it's open not just to servicemembers, but also to others who will work alongside them in integrated operations.

Smith said giving these groups the opportunity to train for missions they'll conduct together, such as running a provincinal reconstruction team, will put them a step ahead when they hit the ground. "We can make sure we show up to the PRTs or some other function we are doing together at least with the basic knowledge that we can share and talk about," he said.

Chu praised the portal's ability to bring together players in different locations and allow them to interact in virtual exercises. "It allows us to ... rehearse for missions with real incidents that literally replicate what they are going to see on the ground," Chu said.

JKO complements and provides links to service-operated portals, including Army Knowledge Online, Navy Knowledge Online, Air Force Portal and MarineNet. These portals will continue to provide service-specific training.