Army pushes Web-based logistics as part of grid

HERSHEY, Pa. ? Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, has issued the Army Materiel Command a challenge: Enable soldiers to order desert camouflage uniforms just like they'd place an order online from the Land's End clothing company, Gen. Paul Kern told industry and government officials at the Industry Advisory Council's Executive Leadership Conference yesterday.

"We are working on that right now," said Kern, commanding general of the Army Materiel Command. "We need a focus on Web-based systems for placing requisition orders and tracking the fulfillment process, transportation and delivery in the theater. Requisitions need to be visible to everybody in the system."

Kern told industry executives their help is essential to his success in linking the Army Materiel Command's logistics function with the Defense Department's Global Information Grid network.

"We have been talking about building a more rapidly deployable and more efficient force for the last 50 years. The only way we can do that is with IT. It is critical to our success in building this network," he said. "The challenge now is to make [the network] work for everyone, and with high assurance that it will be there when you need it on the battlefield."

The Global Information Grid is the U.S. military's interconnected set of information capabilities, processes and personnel for collecting, processing, storing, disseminating and managing information for warfighters, policy-makers and support personnel. The grid supports Defense Department, national security and related intelligence community functions.

"We're working to make sure the network includes logistics. In the past we would have built a [separate] logistics network," Kern said.

Network communications weren't been always available to Army logisticians sending supplies from Kuwait into Iraq, Kern said. At Arifjohn, the primary U.S. base in Kuwait that was used to receive and deploy forces into Iraq, thousands of containers arrived each day during the conflict in Iraq. The containers had radio frequency identification tags that identified what was in each pallet, but Army staff still had trouble finding what they needed, he said.

"We had organizations looking through containers for 21 days, not able to communicate back [to headquarters] what they were looking for," Kern said. Then, thousands of pieces of equipment and supplies sent into Iraq were separated from their destinations by lack of communication.

"Communications depended on land-based, line-of-sight communications that couldn't keep up with the speed of people in the theater. Many parts never made it north because of lack of communication," Kern said.

He said the data elements in the radio frequency identification tags need to be consistent, and Army Materiel Command needs policies and procedures in place that allow tracking of products and who has access to them, and for linking with financial systems.

"I look forward to you solving many of these problems," Kern told industry executives.

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