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Easing the EPIC Search for Logistics Policy Information

Wading through piles of Army policy documents to find the one paragraph you want is a tedious job. But thanks to the work of the Army Logistics Innovation Agency (LIA), the search just became a lot easier. LIA, the field operating agency of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G–4, Headquarters, Department of the Army (DA), created the Enterprise Policy and Process Interactive Capability (EPIC), an electronic policy search tool that has brought the archaic and cumbersome methods of searching for Army logistics policy guidance into the 21st century.

Similar to Commercial Search Engines

EPIC is designed to have a look and feel similar to the popular commercial search engines that are familiar to users, such as Google or Yahoo. Users can therefore easily transfer their knowledge of these popular search engines to EPIC, making it easy for them to learn and use. The similarities to commercial search engines continue with the two basic ways that EPIC provides for performing searches: a simple word search and a complex phrase search.

EPIC enables users to research and cite official Army regulations and DA pamphlets, as posted and updated by the Army Publishing Directorate, with unprecedented effectiveness. EPIC will return a brief synopsis of results to the user. The user then can click on any part of the synopsis to view the full document of requested information.

EPIC’s Advantages for the Army

So, what makes EPIC different from the commercial search engines? The first major difference is that EPIC can provide Army logisticians with precise results in finding Army logistics policy. Because EPIC searches only regulations from the DA G–4 and the Defense Transportation Regulation, search results are timely, up to date, accurate, and precise. EPIC also provides the user with exact data about his searches to help with policy analysis and ensure consistency among publications on the same topic. For instance, a search result will provide the user with the owner of the regulation (supply, maintenance, or transportation), the regulation number and name, the chapter name, and a brief synopsis of the regulation. Using a method called “chunking,” EPIC can take an entire regulation and break it down to the paragraph level. By either performing a simple or advanced search, EPIC users can obtain the exact paragraphs associated with their topic search.

In addition to performing precision searches, EPIC provides logisticians with cross-referenced searches. In other words, when a topic is queried, EPIC brings back all paragraphs related to that topic, no matter which discipline (supply, maintenance, or transportation) is the primary proponent of that topic. This feature enables logisticians to crosscheck policies to ensure that any existing or proposed changes do not contradict existing policies within a particular discipline or the entire Army logistics community.

Accessing ALARACTS Through EPIC

The current version of EPIC provides logisticians with search returns based on published DA G–4 regulations and the Defense Transportation Regulation. However, under the Army’s current operating tempo, policy is changing more frequently than in past. Unfortunately, the official process for updating published regulations has been unable to keep up with these frequent policy changes. As an interim solution, policymakers have started to use an interim message system called All Army Activities (ALARACTS) messages to inform the Army of these fast-paced policy changes. ALARACTS became accessible in EPIC in December 2009. This new feature allows logisticians to search and retrieve ALARACTS, making searching for the latest in logistics policy by means of ALARACTS as easy as it is to search Army regulations and DA pamphlets. Users can search by regulations and ALARACTS or by ALARACTS alone.

EPIC can be accessed through the EPIC Policy Search Tool at http://epic.expr.net. The service is free to all qualified users. The tool is currently undergoing accreditation to be hosted on the Department of Defense network. While EPIC will remain free to users after information certification, in the future EPIC users will need to have either an Army Knowledge Online account or a common access card (CAC) authentication to gain access. Soldiers are encouraged to use EPIC as much and as often as needed and to ask questions or make suggestions through EPIC’s “feedback” button.

Demetrius Glass serves as the EPIC project lead for the Army Logistics Innovation Agency. He has a B.A. degree in education from Newberry College and an M.A. degree in information systems from George Washington University. He is a graduate of the Air Command and Staff College, the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the Air War College.

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