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[] ANS: Army to boot out microfiche,

By Kevin Larson

WASHINGTON (Army News Service April 18, 2002)
The Army is saying good-bye to an old mainstay.

After years of service, the microfiche system used by personnel units and
soldiers to keep tabs on their careers is going the way of the dinosaur
and dodo bird.

The online Official Military Personnel File will completely replace the
old microfiche system by next year.

Over the coming months, the Total Army Personnel Command plans on pulling
microfiche in phases, said Theresa McGuire, branch chief of Officers'
Records.  The first phase will be to stop sending microfiche to soldiers
in the field, McGuire said, followed by eliminating the readers and
associated accessories from PERSCOM.

Phase one should be completed by this summer, McGuire said. She said the
personnel system should be completely electronic by next year. The OMPF
for every soldier is currently online on a test-run basis.  By June 1,
those records will be available to access, said McGuire. Previously, only
majors, captains, sergeants first class and staff sergeants being
considered for promotion had access to their online files.  Currently, the
OMPFs for soldiers eligible for promotion to lieutenant colonel or master
sergeant are available online. The old microfiche readers will become
turn-in equipment, McGuire said.

"What we're trading-in is a horse-and-buggy and we're not getting a Model
A, we're getting a brand new Chevy," said Col. Howard Olsen, the Enlisted
Records and Evaluation Center commander. Replacing the old microfiche
system with an online system is "monumental," Olsen said. "We're
empowering the soldier to have greater participation in career
management," he said.

Under the old system, soldiers had to write letters requesting a
microfiche copy of their records, said McGuire.  Soldiers then had to wait
four to six weeks for the microfiche to come in the mail. "Then you had to
find a microfiche reader, and those are hard to find," McGuire said.

With the online system, soldiers will be able to log onto their Army
Knowledge Online account and view their records to make sure everything is
correct and complete.

If a document is missing, all the soldier needs to do is take a copy of
the document to one of 30 digital centers and have the document verified
and scanned in for addition to the record, Olsen said. "It's going to
allow people to update records in a day or two," McGuire said.

Promotion boards will also access soldiers' files via the online system.
When soldiers pull up their records, they're only looking at a mirror
image of the actual files, Olsen said.  The actual file is tucked away
safely behind several computer firewalls in a database.

Off-site backups of the files are kept, too, Olsen said. By putting
personnel files on the Web, the Army will not only make updating and
viewing personnel files easier, it will also save money, Olsen said. Every
six months McGuire's branch spends $50,000 on film and developing
materials, mailing costs and other microfiche-related expenses, she said.  
It also takes a four-person staff to mail the "fiches." The price tag for
providing microfiche records to enlisted soldiers was about $350,000 a
year, Olsen said.

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