CONTRACT AND BUYERS GUIDES: A closer look 

A Closer Look at Army’s Global Combat Support System
Bringing automated logistics closer to reality

The Global Combat Support System - Army (GCSS-Army) combines Army tactical logistics systems with commercial off the shelf (COTS) Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software in an Army-led effort to integrate logistics information and bring various independent supply chain systems technically together.

 

Several government regulatory oversight organizations have mandated the use of commercial ERP solutions, along with the adoption of service-oriented architectures (SOA) to help government  ‘reuse’ commercially available services, rather than building new ones from scratch.

 

As part of the Army’s strategic vision of a Single Army Logistics Enterprise (SALE), GCSS-Army is the primary tactical enabler and combat multiplier to achieve the Logistics combat Support/Combat Service Support (CS/CSS) transformation vision.  GCSS-Army will provide the warfighter with a seamless flow of timely, accurate, accessible, actionable and secure information not readily available today that gives combat forces a decisive edge.  GCSS-Army will modernize automated logistics by implementing best business practices to streamline supply operations, maintenance operations, property accountability and logistics management and integrate procedures.  GCSS-Army will enable the concepts associated with the Modular Army, including distribution-based logistics, two-level maintenance activities, Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) and other dynamic capabilities considered crucial to transforming Army logistics.

 

Existing Army Logistics Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMIS) focuses mainly on vertical information flows within a stovepiped infrastructure.  There is no single system capable of retrieving all information from these multiple data storage sites to anticipate force projection support requirements, or identify the location of available assets.  Colonel Jeffrey Wilson, Project Manager, GCSS-Army, explains that when fielded, GCSS-Army will replace the current tactical legacy STAMIS with one common logistics solution driven by a single ‘enterprise-wide’ database.  The STAMIS will include Standard Army Maintenance Systems (SAMS), Standard Army Retail Supply Systems (SARSS), Property Book and Unit Supply Enhanced (PBUSE) and the Unit Level Logistics Systems (ULLS).


Building the Single Army Logistics Enterprise

The Single Army Logistics Enterprise (SALE) is establishing its foundation on three primary components, each of which will use commercial, web-based ERP software.

 

Components include:

* Modernized battlefield logistics - Global Combat Support Systems-Army (GCSS-Army);
* Modernized national logistics - Logistics Modernization Program (LMP); and
* Enterprise data hub - Product Lifecycle Management Plus (PLM+).


Over the years, the Army has transformed from a division-centric force to a modular brigade-based force, via Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN). In the new environment, logistics automation is an operational necessity. Many logistics systems currently in place were created up to 30 years ago by an array of Army organizations. In many cases, the technology is older than the operators now using it.

 

The Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS) brought Army logistics programs together under one umbrella in 2006 to enhance integration and coordination. Once fully implemented, logistics automation will allow the Army to transition from numerous, independent IT systems to a seamless, integrated web-based environment. 

 

Via GCSS-Army, commanders and logisticians will be able to access, in near real-time, actionable logistics information from a common database that will be relied upon to be complete, accurate and up-to-date. “Once implemented, GCSS-Army will enable commanders to know what equipment is ready, what is being transported, and what’s in need of maintenance. That way, when a battle plan calls for 40 tanks to be deployed in a specific region, commanders will be able to see that 36 are ready to roll, and can make situational adjustments as needed. This real-time capability will aid Army field operations and will allow logistics to keep pace with mission goals,” said Col. Wilson.


 

National Training CenterSince December 2007, an operational assessment has been under way at the Army National Training Center. “GCSS-Army Segment 1 is up and running. Users can see it, touch it, and one of the biggest measures of success so far is that the new system has caused  no interruption to the operations of the 11th Armored Calvary Regiment (11th ACR) currently supported,” said LTC Cary Ferguson, assistant project manger for GCSS-Army.

 

Segment 1 of GCSS-Army provides the 11th ACR and its higher level materiel managers with all tiers of tactical supply functionality.  Segment 1 also introduces new functions, including the ability to analyze and adjust each supply item’s ‘fill rate’ by individual material numbers (NIINs), the capability to manage excess stock and the addition of automated tools that enable more efficient and proactive management of daily Army warehouse activities. 

 

“The first segment of GCSS-Army has a more modern look, taken from commercial environments, which makes it easier for younger soldiers to absorb,”  LTC Ferguson explained.  “It has taken time and effort to bridge some of the terminology and process differences along the way,” he explained, “but it has been important to put Army logisticians on the same lexicon as commercial logisticians, to enable easier training.”


Aligning Vision with Leadership

Several organizations are committed to implementing the Army’s logistics enterprise vision, including:

* Army Materiel Command (AMC) and Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM), which define SALE requirements and training;
* The Deputy for Army Logistics Enterprise Integration (DALEI) allows for the functional integration and synchronization of business processes, schedules, development and implementation of end-to-end architectures;
* The Army G4 is the logistics portfolio manager;
* PEO EIS is the materiel developer of the SALE, creating solutions that meet mission requirements and deliver the programs in accordance with DoD 5000.


Other related systems, such as maintenance, which ‘feed’ into the supply system are still in the planning stage of implementation. To date, the 11th ACR soldiers using GCSS-Army have given the system a resounding thumbs-up.  Soldiers love that many routine activities, such as daily close-outs and backups, are no longer necessary.  Specialist Tara Jaime, stock control clerk, 11 ACR, reported that while daily shut down and backup operations previously took nearly two hours to complete, those same operations are now automated and completed in the background, saving time and enabling her to focus on more important tasks. “We can now look into open transactions to respond to requests before there are any issues,” she explained. “GCSS-Army enables us to be more proactive, able to research supply as needed to respond far more quickly than before,” she added.

 

Soldiers also appreciate having access to improved warehouse management functionality, including bin-to-bin moves, warehouse activity monitor and the stock look-up capabilities.  The system is also proving to be less difficult to operate than many feared. 

 

In segment two, due to start its operational assessment in 2009, the Army will replace older maintenance and property accounting systems and combine with the GCSS supply system on a single platform, using a single, unified database.  Officials stressed the Army won’t be customizing SAP’s ERP software in its implementation. The operational assessments allow GCSS-Army staff to exercise the pieces before putting the enterprise software environment out in the field for all Army users. The intention is to assess a small portion of functionality, learn from it and refine it until the full solution is ready for an Army-wide fielding.  “It’s critical to reduce risks associated with implementing each segment of the GCSS-Army solution, since this new platform will directly impact every unit’s ability to view its readiness posture,” said Col. Wilson.


Upgrading Logistics at the National Level

The Logistics Modernization Program (LMP) is a comprehensive business solution that leverages industry technology and integration methods to realize logistics and financial improvements throughout the Army’s supply chain.  LMP is a new way of doing logistics business for the Army. It’s replacing 30-year-old legacy systems with fully integrated, technologically superior functions that allow the Army to support the warfighter more quickly and cost effectively. When fully deployed and operational, LMP will support all aspects of the Army’s national level logistics.

 

Currently, LMP is deployed to over 4,000 users in 14 locations. Upon full deployment, LMP will be deployed worldwide in more than 1,000 locations with
approximately 17,000 users. LMP is an important component of the Army’s full scale logistics transformation effort, the Single Army Logistics Enterprise (SALE).


Industry observers maintain that the public sector enterprise of the future will live entirely on the Web, as government organizations of all kinds learn to worry less about protecting jobs and/or aging processes and gain confidence in the reliability and accessibility of web-enabled solutions. “Instead of doing things the Army way, we’re working to get the Army to use COTS software and web-based technologies to help modernize processes and deliver a whole new approach to logistics for the warfighter,” said Col. Wilson.

 

Supported by its fully integrated logistics database, near real-time visibility and ready access to actionable information, the GCSS-Army solution is expected to help drive a transformation in Army logistic processes.