The first "frequently asked question" at the Chief of Information's website is, "Is there a central directory for e-- mail addresses for naval personnel?" The official response is, "No." This is despite the fact that e-mail has been an important tool in the professional and personal lives of sailors and officers for years.
The Navy's Smart Base project, under the cognizance of Ashore Readiness (N46), has the potential to be such a service. It can locate any officer, sailor, or Department of the Navy civilian.
The X.500 Navy Directory at http:// www.navydirectory.smartlink.navy.mil provides two access portals to a database: a "smart link" and a public access. To use the smart link access, you must be on a server in a military domain (e.g., [email protected]), have strong (128-bit) encryption, and have Secure Sockets Layer version 2.0 on port 443 of your computer. The site has a "browser check" function to verify that your system meets these requirements. To view or change data, an individual's Social Security number serves as the password.
Public access from the Internet also is available, but because of privacy concerns, data for personnel who are overseas or in sensitive or routinely deployable units are not available. Security features are in place here as well, but they are enforced only for changing an entry, not for viewing it.
The X.500 contains data from the Navy Personnel Command, Defense Finance and Accounting Service, and from the Standard Navy Distribution List, which includes name, department, postal address, unit identification code, and pay grade or rank. There are two position/billet fields for commissioned officers, but most are not user-friendly (e.g., "damage control assistant") functional data elements.
Other fields are available, but each user must enter his or her own information manually—or these data fields remain useless. These optional fields include: e-mail address, office code, title, phone and fax numbers, room number for delivery personnel, and home page on the Internet.
Each of us is a member of a community in the Navy—group names such as Surf, Air, Nuc, and Sub would be used to identify those in the surface, air, nuclear, and submarine fields. The real potential of the X.500 lies in including this information in each title field. These abbreviated titles allow ac cess to individual e-mail addresses of all sailors and officers in a particular community, thereby making the system into a group e-mail directory.
To be usable,the title field needs to follow a common protocol. I propose using a "Group.Billet.Location" format. For example. "Sub.COB.SSN21" I would be assigned to the chief of the boat on the USS Seawolf (SSN-21). Similarly, to find the names, E-mail addresses, and phone numbers for all chiefs of the boat, start an advanced title search for entries that start with "Sub.COB."
Including the title and e-mail fields among those that are assigned and updated automatically could leverage the power of the X.500. This would permit data searches and downloads by groups, improving communications for entire communities and individuals.
The X.500 still is under development, but it is designed to be a permanent source of personal data. When complete, it automatically should update group, billet, and location data for individual records— or the Navy Directory will become just another obscure legacy system.
The X.500 can be a powerful service. We can get one step closer to implementing the Navy and Marine Corps Intranet by adopting these ideas. We must have a plan—a little bit of leadership now can make all the difference.
Master Chief Haggard is the Quality Control Advisor to the Nuclear Program Manager and an elected member of the U.S. Naval Institute Board of Directors.