The Army Knowledge Online portal, known by its 1.8 million users as AKO, has a new manager.

Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Integrated Systems and Solutions Division in Gaithersburg this month won a $152 million contract to manage the U.S. Army's online network and is to take over in a few weeks.

By Oct. 1, Lockheed will begin Phase 1 of the contract, which includes managing a help desk and hosting the Army home page, said Lee Hall, Lockheed's director of enterprise solutions.

AKO, which was created in 1999, is an intranet, a private network that uses Internet protocols and Web browsers. The site is a single point of entry to a variety of features and links, including e-mail, distance learning and training opportunities, a worldwide people-locator service for anyone with an AKO account, and a highly restricted repository for sensitive and classified information. AKO users log on to the portal roughly half a million times a day, officials said.

For years, seven contractors operated components of AKO, but the Army wanted a single manager to reduce redundancies and save money.

"What they'll see is improved performance, ease of use and easier access," said Matt Kramer, a Lockheed spokesman.

Lockheed aims to increase user satisfaction and achieve availability rates of 99 percent and higher, Hall said.

Lockheed Martin would not reveal performance measurements for AKO.

Under the contract, which will run for a year with six option years, Lockheed Martin will provide systems operations and maintenance, network communications, hardware and software integration, and around-the-clock help-desk support for both the non-classified IP router network and a secret IP router network.

Subcontractors to Lockheed include Computer Sciences Corp. of El Segundo, Calif.; Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego; Roundarch Inc. of New York; and Internosis Inc. of Greenbelt.

In the second phase of the contract, which is an option for the Army, Lockheed would design new AKO architecture. Lockheed also would manage two data centers and perform network management and security functions. The third phase, Kramer said, would be to make AKO the single point of entry for other Army systems and programs.

Kevin Carroll, the Army's program executive officer for enterprise information systems, said Lockheed will monitor AKO and bring new applications to the portal. Carroll's program office has oversight of AKO.

"Combining the great things that AKO has done in the past with the net-centric future that Army modularity will provide -- this is a great opportunity for the Army," Carroll said.

Carroll said Lt. Gen. Steven W. Boutelle, the Army's chief information officer, has said that he wants all software applications to run behind the AKO portal.

Dawn S. Onley is a senior writer for Government Computer News. For more on this and other topics concerning technology in government, go to www.gcn.com.