Is there anything more universally detested by sailors and officers alike than Navy Knowledge Online?
Poor connectivity, broken links and a Windows '98-era look are among the complaints, from the latest boot camp graduates to the three-star chief of naval personnel.
"NKO stinks," Vice Adm. Bill Moran said April 14 told attendees April 14 at the annual Sea-Air-Space Exposition outside Washington, D.C. "I'm not going to sugarcoat it. It's too slow. It's burdensome."
Vice Adm. Bill Moran, the chief of naval personnel, wants to replace the service's education hub, and he's asked his staff to get suggestions from fleet lieutenants and first classes.
Photo Credit: MC3 Johans Chavarro/Navy
Sailors of all stripes share his sentiments. For example, a chief explosive ordnance disposal technician who responded to a Navy Times call for suggestions to fix NKO.
"If the Navy wants to pay me for doing nothing, which is what futilely fumbling around with NKO amounts to, then I'm fine with it; however, this methodology would not fly in the real world," said a chief explosive ordnance disposal technician in one of the dozens of responses to a Navy Times call for ways suggestions of how to fix NKO. who asked not to be identified.
"For example, I have been going back and forth all morning long attempting to pull up an online course. It's just a big pile of digital crap," added the chief, who asked not to be identified out of concern for his career.
Moran announced that throwing out — or revamping — NKO is on his list of priorities as the Navy works to updateimprove its entire information technology infrastructure, and he's asked his staff to get suggestions from fleet lieutenants and first classes, as well as in-house think tanks like the Chief of Naval Operations' Rapid Innovation Cell.
Navy Times readers had plenty of ideas as well. Here are some of Their top suggestions:
1. Combine all of the training and reference portals into one.
"If you want to fix training, I suggest making one website for all things Navy," wrote Intelligence Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Joshua Covell, the lead petty officer at Navy Operational Support Center Washington, D.C.'s training department.
"Currently, we use NKO, ESAMS, WESS, FLTMPS, Entrs, CANTRAC, NSIPS, DTS, NROWS, PRIMS, BOL, NFAS, CMSID and so many more I can't name them all — some of these even lock you out if you don't log in at least every 30 days!" he said.
He also suggested reducing some of the required NKO training courses to a biannual basis or less frequently. And training isn't the only issue.
Covell also suggested rolling up the Navy's medical and personnel records into one website.
Indeed, officials are set to launch a one-stop career site later this year known as "My Navy Portal." The website will give sailors access to their training and personnel records and links to NKO.
2. No CAC card needed
One of the biggest complaints from sailors is the need for a common access card to log on to NKO, which means that vital educational courses and training it can only be accessed from government computers, which are in short supply at many fleet commands.
But what if sailors want to do non-sensitive training personal development or career management courses in their down time at home?
"I know and recognize the security issues with this, however, one of the most important websites that we need and use every month is [MyPay], mypay.dfas.milwhich allows us to use a password or a CAC reader," wrote Ensign Jonathan Ingram, a flight school student at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.
3. Civilian instructors at sea
Internet access on a ship is limited at best, with the the bulk of the ship's broadband going to operations.
One option would be to turn NKO into a software portal loaded with courses and reference information and saved to hard drives aboard ship so that it that doesn't require an Internet connection.
A command master chief helps a junior sailor understand Navy Knowledge Online more than a decade ago. Not enough has been done to keep the education hub in step with technological advancements.
Photo Credit: Navy
Another avenue would be to send a civilian instructor to teach NKO courses live while on deployment, a suggestion from retired Cmdr. Curtis Stubbs, now a computer science professor at the University of Maryland.
The academic instructor could administer, proctor, grade, teach, mentor and monitor the entirety of the ship's training efforts, he said, beyond that of divisional training petty officers. the job of the in-case-of-emergency training officers.
"We already have victim advocate personnel that are required to be on board during cruises," Stubbs said. "Having a civilian training official on board would be an invaluable resource to the commanding officer and the crew."
4. Bring back enrichment courses
NKO used to be more than required, check-the-block training, one junior officer said, and he'd like to see those days return.
"A few years ago, NKO was rife with plenty of SkillSoft courses pertaining to a number of topics — many focused on civilian business practices — that helped sailors develop additional skills that benefited the Navy and the sailor, especially once the sailor transitioned to civilian life," Lt. Timothy Galginaitis said.
Topics like leadership, process improvement and accounting, now mostly absent from NKO, should come back, he added.
5. Go mobile
In his remarks, Moran stressed that young sailors today need a slick, easily accessible system that looks something like the technology they've grown up with.
Operations Specialist 2nd Class (EXW) Daniel Armas, a recruiter based in Summerville, North Carolina, suggested using the platforms familiar to future sailors.
"I feel the Navy should utilize the technology we all use on a day-to-day basis — like smart phones, tablets, even gaming systems — to be able to create an app that, with a scan of a CAC card or as simple as a password, you can log in and have automatic messages or alerts that tell you what courses you are late on, or what training is coming up so you can add it to your events calendar," Armas said.
Seaman Apprentice Deion Hackworth, a boatswain's mate "A" school student who graduated from boot camp in early April, said he's already disillusioned with NKO.
"It's just something that I do to pass a test or to get qualified in something," he said. "I don't feel like it really helps."
For now, Moran said, his staff is collaborating with sailors in the fleet for new ideas. A facelift for NKO is still a ways off, he said.