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Obtaining Visibility of Stay-Behind Equipment

Establishing visibility of stay-behind equipment is time consuming
and can even pose a danger to the Soldiers involved.

Property managers are the cornerstone of property accountability discipline throughout the theater of operations. They are a vital link in the supply chain on which the Multinational Coalition-Iraq (MNC–I), the Combined Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC), major support commands (MSCs), and the Department of the Army (DA) depend to get an accurate picture of equipment that is on the ground. Efforts to attain total asset visibility in the theater of operations began yesterday; today, we must “lean forward” to maintain and improve total asset visibility in current and future operations.

Before I deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) III, I knew that it was difficult to gain visibility of stay-behind equipment (SBE) that had been deployed during OIF I. However, I did not realize the severity of the problem until I had served as the property book officer for Headquarters, Corps Distribution Command, 1st Corps Support Command, for 30 days or so.

My predecessor had used the Standard Property Book System-Redesign (SPBS–R), a system that has been around for over a decade. With SPBS–R, equipment is tracked by property book unit identification code (UIC) or installation code. Unfortunately, SPBS–R was of little help in resolving the ongoing SBE visibility problem because it could be manipulated easily by substituting inaccurate line numbers for primary line numbers in order to maintain a high unit status report rating for equipment on hand.

PBUSE

To establish visibility of SBE in theater, we had to conduct extensive research to obtain data on equipment deployed during OIF I and enter the data into the newly fielded Property Book and Unit Supply-Enhanced (PBUSE) system.

Although PBUSE did not completely solve our visibility problems, it has some distinct advantages over SPBS–R. A significant advantage of PBUSE is that equipment transfers can be made before units arrive in country. If a deploying unit’s property book officer does not deploy, there is no need for supply sergeants to hand-carry unit transfer request disks and a copy of the primary hand receipt to the forward property book officer as was done in the past. Instead, the rear property book officer can process the transfer with only the UIC of the forward property book. This process takes a matter of minutes and allows the forward property book officer to review the hand receipt before the unit arrives. When the unit arrives in country, the hand receipt is ready for the primary hand receipt holder (usually the unit commander) to sign.

In the stand-alone mode, PBUSE can be linked to tactical networks using satellite communications, which allows units to use the system to synchronize data while in transit. However, bandwidth problems sometimes make it difficult to connect to the NIPRNet (Unclassified but Sensitive Internet Protocol Router Network) in the stand-alone mode because PBUSE often times out before NIPRNet connectivity is made. Having a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) would be a big help to units that are de-ployed in areas where NIPRNet or SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) connectivity is sporadic.

Processing Military Standard Requisitioning and Issue Procedures (MILSTRIP) transactions in the supply support activity (SSA) is challenging because it is difficult to maintain file transfer protocol (FTP) connectivity. To make file transfer more efficient, all PBUSE systems should have static Internet protocol (IP) addresses (permanent numeric identifications that are assigned by the network administrator to a node in an IP network) and operators in the SSA must be fully trained on the processes involved in migrating SPBS–R data to PBUSE.

Some equipment visibility problems are personnel driven. For example, when I arrived in theater, property book UICs and type authorization codes were not being thoroughly validated or were often inaccurate. More than 90 of the 400 hand receipt accounts at Camp Victory and approximately 70 of the 300 accounts at Logistics Support Area Anaconda were delinquent. Some unit commanders had not conducted monthly inventories or signed their initial installation property book hand receipts.

Total asset visibility in a theater of operations remains a problem. Headquarters, DA, can see only the assets that have automatically migrated or been entered manually into PBUSE. The accountability process will not work unless commanders take an active role and ensure that all property is on the appropriate property book and keep the property book officer abreast of transactions that must be processed if a discrepancy exists. Property managers must ensure that the correct property book identification codes and type authorization codes are entered when using PBUSE.


Chief Warrant Officer (W–3) Khuntae RaeGail Burke is the Property Book Officer for Headquarters, Corps Distribution Command, 1st Corps Support Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which is currently deployed to Iraq. She has a bachelor’s degree in social science from the University of Maryland University College and a master’s degree in human relations from the University of Oklahoma (Norman campus). She is a 16-year Army veteran.