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A Canadian company called PureEdge Solutions is helping to haul the U.S. Army's paperwork into the digital age.

PureEdge is the leading provider of a trio of companies - the other two are IBM Corp. and Silanis Technology - of e-form technology for the automation of the management of documents.

Described as "breakthrough technology," the integrated forms management system is designed to provide an infrastructure to automate form-based business processes. The Army relies on forms for everything from supply ordering and pay disbursement to medical recordkeeping and the awarding of citations. The new system is expected to streamline this famously slow process.

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Previously, the U.S. Army converted paper-based forms into digital files that could be accessed from an official website. But although the forms could be filled in and stored electronically, users were forced to print a paper copy, manually sign it and then hand-carry or mail the form to complete the authorization process.

The system promises cost savings in the hundreds of millions of dollars. More than a million soldiers and support staff will use the forms.

The new PureEdge-IBM-Silanis system uses XML-based e-forms, digital signatures and content management software that will not only support the automation of the administrative process but it will now allow the army to provide a single system to automate the entire process.

Additionally, the army will be able to replace existing redundant "stovepipe" technologies across different divisions (such as logistics, medical and personnel), simplifying the soldiers' workflow.

The system is officially called the Forms Content Management Program (FCMP). The U.S. Army had asked Enterprise Information Management Inc. to construct a digital-forms system, and IBM, PureEdge and Silanis were selected to meet the security and reliability requirements while soldiers the ability to access all forms through the Army Knowledge Online portal.

Paperwork surrounds every component of military life - from personnel evaluations and supply requisitions to award certificates and medals. The primary purpose of the FCMP is to establish an army enterprise IT infrastructure that will automate all current manual form-based processes.

With the deployment of this technology, the Army will have a centralized format for electronic documents based upon the open standard of XML and commercially available technology. Units in the field will be able to view the same forms as their counterparts at other bases worldwide and capture all the required data in a single format that can then be quickly and securely transmitted via e-mail. With the benefit of auto-population of data, the soldier will no longer be required to enter the same data on multiple forms. XML is an industry standard computer language that allows database programs to rapidly identify information and place it in context within a form or document.

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The system is based on the IBM Middleware Solution for Government eForms and Records Management - a suite of software products including IBM's DB2 Content Manager, WebSphere, DB2 Information Integrator and Tivoli Monitoring.

PureEdge XML-based e-forms have played a central part in modernizing forms processes across the U.S. Department of Defence. Among government organizations that have chosen PureEdge e-forms as the basis for their business process automation are the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Department of Defence, the U.S. Treasury FINCEN, the Department of State D-Trade as well as the SEC.

"In today's geopolitical climate, it is increasingly important for government and military organizations to automate processes to expedite communications and information transfer among personnel around the world," PureEdge CEO Mark Upson said in a statement.

The army will be using Silanis' ApproveIt digital signature technology. The system supports the validation of the signer's identity, confirmation of the certificate validity, and invalidation of signatures on documents that have been modified. This enables the army to become a paperless workplace - meeting planned federal technology requirements.

"More than 70,000 army personnel have already been using our digital signature solutions for critical approvals on documents and forms," Silanis CEOP Richard L. Warren said. "With this [contract] now the entire army will have access to our solutions for the automation of key processes."

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