December 12, 2006 by jimstogdill
Long anticipated system launching
The Pentagon announced today the imminent release of Amilzon.mil, the Pentagon’s long anticipated warfighter book request system.
The program, announced in 1994, was conceived from its inception to demonstrate the utility of DARPA’s still-new ARPANET (now the Internet) by making it easer for soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines to obtain professional journals, books, training materials, qualification guides and other required reading.
Unfortunately the “exemplar” program, which is now “significantly over budget” (in the words of recent GAO auditors), ran into trouble in the late 1990’s when, within six months of it’s intended initial deployment, the requirements were modified to include wide-ranging additional capabilities. The original budget of $127 million has since swollen to nearly $1.5 billion according to available public records.
Perhaps the most complex of the new requirements were a “suggestion engine” and “partner stores” to permit warfighters to find and then directly purchase Garmin GPS units, Police-grade Kevlar Armor, Motorola “Talk-About” radios, long-wearing desert boots, and other products generally purchased directly by our men and women in service. The suggestion engine was later dropped as unnecessary (“we tell them what they need”) as was a proposal to allow soldier’s parents to have their own accounts to purchase gear on their family member’s behalf.
Recent requirement additions that have resulted in still further delay include a Silly String store (a move the Army fought on the grounds that it, well, sounded silly; the Marine Corps which originally proposed the requirement and whose barking always sounds silly, prevailed), a holiday care package “wish list,” and a requirement to make the site accessible directly from any JTRS radio handsets despite the fact that the handsets are not yet available to test.
The system’s then prime contractor Lockthrop claimed in public hearings at the time that the new requirements, though critical, had significant impact on the underlying architecture of the system and necessitated that most of the prior four year’s work be scrapped. Sources at the newly merged BoeLockthroptheon could not be reached for comment.
The Pentagon announcement remains vague on the precise launch date of the program. Sources point to difficulties in obtaining the necessary Certification and Accreditation for use on the .mil network.
Since this story was first published an interesting footnote has emerged: all of the originally targeted training and qualification publications have been moved to digital form in the intervening 12 years and no longer require physical distribution. The Pentagon believes it may still re-coup some of its investment in this capability by re-selling it to commercial book sellers as a managed service.