The Air Force Portal is undergoing a redesign that allows access on mobile devices, geared for easier navigation and operates in low-bandwidth environments. The Global Combat Support System, an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center-owned program, is responsible for the portal update, allowing more than 750,000 active users to stay connected. The update is scheduled to take place by the end of the year. (Courtesy graphic)
by Justin Oakes
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
11/7/2013 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Expected to launch by the end of 2013, the Global Combat Support System-Air Force, or GCSS-AF, is rolling out a revamped portal, which simplifies navigation, improves performance on low-bandwidth connections and works from mobile devices.
"The old system had become cluttered, difficult to navigate and was in need of an update," said Danielle Dunn, GCSS service area lead. "The new system is orderly, simple to navigate, and updated with a fresh look and feel."
With more than 750,000 active users and an average of 400,000 weekly log-ins, the Air Force Portal is the service's primary Web gateway, giving Airmen worldwide secure access to a broad range of information and applications.
In January 2010, the Air Force removed username and password access to the portal, requiring users to log-in using a common access card or public key infrastructure certificate. While the same requirement is still in effect, the redesigned portal will now support PKI/CAC-enabled mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets.
When users log-in on a mobile device, the portal will detect the device's screen size and adapt the display automatically, paring down the feature and functionality that works best for that device.
"The team studied industry trends and acknowledged the shift to mobile information access anywhere, on any device," said 2nd Lt. Rett Rayhill, Air Force Portal service area lead. "In order for us to remain relevant, it was a logical next step to support mobile access."
The redesign stemmed from a requirement to support users in bandwidth-constrained locations, such as overseas bases within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility and geographically separated units within the United States.
According to Rayhill, the new system will continue to enable Airmen to do their job whether deployed or in the U.S.
"It will provide a more consistent user experience to forward operating bases as afforded to those stateside," he said.
In addition to the system operating on a low bandwidth and from CAC/PKI-enabled mobile devices, users will notice that the AF Portal was reorganized and streamlined to make the system easier to use and navigate -- another key component to the redesign.
"The look and feel has been updated to reflect today's Air Force," Dunn said. "The design helps users find their applications and information more quickly and efficiently."
The updated navigation menu clearly highlights news and announcements, base/organization and functional areas, career and training, life and fitness and references. "My Stuff," one of the new design features, focuses on user personalization by providing quick access to each user's alerts, workspaces, applications and favorites.
Another new feature within the system focuses on information sharing.
Users will be able to join groups and compile information then transfer it to other users before leaving a location -- similar to a continuity binder.
"This new portal will definitely increase productivity while enhancing Airmen's personal and professional endeavors," Dunn said.