The U.S. military plans to revise its logistics effort
The revision was ordered in wake of a U.S. Army report that the combat
supply system fell short of expectations during the war in Iraq in 2003.
Officials said the overseas logistics suffered from a lack of communications
between supply procurers, transporters and customers.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert Dail, director of operations at U.S.
Transportation Command headquarters at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., said the
war in Iraq revealed communication problems between
front-line combat units and their rear-line suppliers. He said better
integration across the supply and transport chains was required.
One problem identified was that combat commanders were held responsible
for the delivery of supplies and troops. The U.S. Army found that the system
did not work well in Iraq amid the rigidity of the logistics support system.
Officials also attributed the supply problems in Iraq to the use of
separate information and command and control systems by logicians and combat
The Defense Department has decided to introduce a new information
technology system, termed Transcom, into overseas
operations, including Iraq. Dail said this would produce "a tremendous
improvement" in how the military provides supplies and services to soldiers,
sailors, airmen and marines in the field.
"No longer are we just looking from the national level at providing
forces and delivering goods to overseas airports and seaports," Dail said.
"But now, we're looking at delivering them and tracking them all the way to
forward locations, and northern locations in Iraq, far-forward locations in
U.S. officials said the Pentagon also wants the military to
maintain a close watch on expensive equipment to ensure that they are not
lost and stolen. The officials said the Pentagon has helped U.S. Central
Command, responsible for the campaign in Iraq, to introduce technology that
would track equipment at all times.
The Pentagon has been testing what officials termed radio-frequency
identification technology that would allow logistics units to track down
equipment. The project would seek to develop radio-frequency identification,
or RFID, tags that would send signals that could be tracked for short
"It will give us better tracking of inventory so we'll know what we have
in stock, where it is and where it is in motion," Alan Estevez, assistant
deputy undersecretary of defense for supply chain integration, said. "When
the troops overseas order supplies, we'll be able to get our hands on the
supplies they need and move it to them in the most effective manner."
The tags would contain microchips that, when scanned, send out a unique
identification signal. The tags, which equate data with an item, could be
quickly added to inventory databases and provide a real-time picture of
logistics and supplies. Under the new system, RFID would automatically relay
information to an inventory accountability system, eliminating the need for
troops to scan these items.
Officials said the Pentagon first used a form of RFID to track container
shipments during the U.S.-led war in Iraq in March 2003. They said the tags
would be used on items with a value of more than $5,000, including key
components of major weapons platforms and weapons tracked by serial numbers
On April 8, Defense Department officials met hundreds of vendors to
discuss plans for implementing RFID technology in
the military. Many U.S. retail stores and chains already use RFID tags to
track products and control inventory costs.
"We don't think our requirements are significantly different or
different at all from those in the commercial sector," Ed Coyle, chief of
the Pentagon's Automatic Identification Technology Office, said. "And from
that perspective, we need to play very heavily with those in the commercial
sector to make sure that the product we come up with collectively meets
DoD's requirements. We don't want to have to be unique."