(The following is provided as a public service from the Fort Huachuca Retiree Council and was written by retired Lt. Col Mark Overberg, deputy chief, Army Retirement Services.)
AKO transition will affect retirees
On April 26, Army Secretary John McHugh signed a memo outlining the Army’s transition from Army Knowledge Online™, or AKO, to the information foundation of Army 2020. “To achieve the anticipated financial economies, efficiencies and security improvements, the Army must modernize current AKO infrastructure and services to become more interoperable across DoD (Department of Defense), compliant with emerging Joint Information Environment architectures and implement current best practices for cloud-based managed services,” McHugh wrote.
As part of the transition, the Army “will sunset the technological systems that underpin AKO today, although the AKO trademark will remain.” The memo directed two immediate actions:
• The Army G-3/5/7 will publish an order including transition dates for all AKO services not later than Aug. 24.
• Headquarters, Department of the Army, or DA, will rescind the exceptions to policy authorizing AKO accounts for DA civilian retirees, military retirees and Family members.
To prevent these communities from losing access to online functions and services, retirees must obtain a DoD self-service logon, which allows secure access to websites such as TRICARE Online, MyPay, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ e-Benefits and the Defense Manpower Data Center.
McHugh wrote, “In today’s Internet age, the Army retains a responsibility and a mission requirement to remain virtually connected to all of our military retirees. As part of the executive order, G-1, in conjunction with CIO/G-6, will publish guidance regarding how the Army will support this requirement.”
Statistics show that retirees don’t widely use AKO. In Sept. 2012, military retirees and Family members accounted for only 1.92 percent of all AKO Logins and 0.16 percent of emails sent.
Retiree Council says standards of service are needed
On April 26, retired Lt. Gen. James Lovelace, Jr. and retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston, the co-chairs of the Chief of Staff, Army (or CSA) Retiree Council, met with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III to discuss the concerns of the one million strong retired community and to offer retirees’ continued support to the Army.
The council said in its formal report to the CSA that “consistent day-to-day quality support of our retiree constituency across the Army’s components is critical. To accomplish this requires experienced professionals and adequate uninterrupted resourcing.”
The council acknowledged the Army faces significant resource challenges that include difficult cuts for personnel and programs. The report said, “In this environment, retired Soldiers recognize they are Soldiers for life and will be needed more than ever. As part of the Army team, we will continue to do our part in telling the Army story and providing support wherever and whenever needed. The ongoing contributions and volunteer service of so many of the one million-plus retired Soldiers and surviving spouses demonstrates our commitment to our Army, its active duty force, its retired Soldiers and Family members.”
Citing program inconsistencies across the Army, the council recommended the Army “establish measurable standards of service … and a process to track them.” The council volunteered to work with U.S. Army Installation Management Command, or IMCOM, and the DA staff to accomplish this task.
A summary of the council’s key recommendations include:
• Increases of TRICARE fees should not be tied to the annual health care inflation rate. Continued increases using the retired pay cost-of-living adjustment are acceptable.
• Support legislation to authorize pretax payment of premiums for TRICARE, supplemental, long-term care and dental insurance.
• Prioritize retirement services as a “must fund” program at DA level and fence resources to ensure execution is not affected by resource shortfalls at lower levels. Focus on funding pre- and post-retirement services, retiree councils, retiree appreciation events, and outreach and engagement of the retiree community.
• Complete the formal establishment of Retirement Services Offices at major Army Reserve and Army National Guard commands.
• Review retirement services at joint base locations to ensure the transition of installation management to other services has not reduced retirement services below Army standards.
• Clearly identify the importance of retired Soldiers by including them in senior leader talking points, leadership courses, the IMCOM commanding general’s top 10 priorities, and the Army Family and Community Covenants.
• Sustain funding for printing three editions of Army “Echoes” each year. Expand efforts maximize electronic delivery of “Echoes.”
The terms of five of the 14 council members will end in 2013. This summer, Retirement Service officers will accept nominations for replacements. All council reports since 2001 are available at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/rso/RetireeCouncil.asp.
The Fort Huachuca Retiree Council meets quarterly in January, April, July and October. The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 10 a.m., in the Army Community Service Conference Room.
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