The Army must ensure that its CSS systems are
completely interoperable and capable of producing accurate
and timely information that is useful in supporting the warfighter.
If the Army is to transform to a force that can respond rapidly
with leaner sustainment and lighter deployment requirements,
it must reduce its forward logistics footprint and increase its
responsiveness. Future sustainment processes must be simpler and more responsive,
agile, and flexible to meet sustainment requirements. A significantly
smaller logistics work-force must be able to provide highly
effective support over extended distances in shorter times.
Technology and innovation must be used whenever feasible to
increase readiness and operational reliability.
The Department of Defense (DOD) has made great strides in improving
asset visibility at the strategic and operational levels. The
Army learned from Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm
that it was unable to track supplies and equipment from the
strategic industrial base to the theater of operations. This
failure caused the theater logistics footprint to grow exponentially
and placed a heavy burden on supply and transportation systems.
DOD recognized this deficiency and implemented steps to develop
a DOD-wide automatic identification technology (AIT) vision
to integrate existing and new technologies to support future
operations. This vision emphasized the development of a suite
of interoperable AIT media and infrastructure to support asset
visibility within the Army’s logistics operations. Even
though DOD was able to implement AIT at the strategic and operational
levels, it was not as successful in devising and implementing
a plan for operations outside of the normal peacetime environment.
This was evident during the initial stages of Operation Iraqi
Freedom, when tracking supplies pushed from the strategic and
operational levels was nearly impossible. Asset visibility
should not stop at the strategic level but go as far forward
as possible to support the tactical environment (“the
of cargo destined for Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq, await
upload onto a C–130E Hercules transport at
a forward deployed location in Southwest Asia.
Legacy System Shortfalls
Total asset visibility is achieved by using timely and accurate
information systems that track the distribution of assets.
Visibility begins at the point from which materiel is shipped
to the theater of operations and continues until it reaches
the user. Critical to visibility is the capability to update
source data dynamically with the near-real-time status of
shipments from other combat service support (CSS) systems
until the shipments arrive at their ultimate destinations.
However, this is a difficult task because the legacy logistics
systems used in CSS activities are not interoperable with
current and emerging AIT. Moreover, the Army’s logistics
distribution processes are not using the type of technologies
used by large distribution-based commercial enterprises.
To combat this short-fall and integrate interoperability into
its systems, DOD has begun to form partnerships with commercial
industries such as Wal-Mart in hopes of learning how they apply
asset visibility technologies. However, unlike Wal-Mart, the
military distribution system must support full-spectrum operations
throughout the strategic, operational, and tactical environments.
During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the Army’s
problems with tracking and maintaining visibility of deployed
units’ CSS resources were caused largely by a lack of
technology and the use of legacy logistics systems that provided
only a limited capability to communicate throughout the supply
chain. As a result, commanders at the tactical level developed
a “just-in-case” logistics strategy. Since the
CSS systems were not responsive and failed to provide near-real-time
visibility of needed supplies and equipment, tactical commanders
often placed several orders for the same item “just in
case” the first order did not arrive. This practice placed
a heavy burden on the industrial base, the war reserve stockpile,
and the transportation system from the strategic to the tactical
levels. During Operation Desert Storm, more that half of the
contents of 400,000 cargo containers shipped to the desert—including
$2.7 billion worth of spare parts—were not used, according
to a Government Accountability Of-fice (GAO) report. With
little or no visibility of what was in the containers, receiving
personnel had to open them to identify the contents. This
wasted valuable human resources and caused customer wait
time to skyrocket.
Funding for AIT
After Desert Storm, DOD tried to resolve the visibility shortfalls
by working with several defense contractors, such as Savi
Technologies, Inc., and UNISYS Corporation, to develop a
test bed for integrating commercial off-the-shelf products
into CSS processes and “bridging” those products
to the Army’s legacy logistics information systems.
In March 2000, DOD implemented a plan that integrated logistics
AIT into logistics business processes to facilitate the collection
of initial source data, reduce processing times, improve accuracy,
and enhance asset visibility. However, this plan was undercut
by a lack of funding. Although DOD’s policy laid out
milestones for implementation, it did not provide funding for
the plan. The Department of Defense Implementation Plan for
Logistics Automatic Identification Technology stated—
AIT devices are generally managed as automated data processing
peripheral equipment and will be funded and maintained by using
organizations. In accordance with the Defense Planning Guidance,
organizations that operate nodes in the DOD logistics chain
will fund, procure, and maintain the ability to read and write
AIT media to meet mission requirements.
The AIT implementation plan placed the financial burden on
the organization to use its current opera-tion and maintenance,
Army (OMA), dollars to fund AIT. This burden was felt in the
19th Theater Support Command (TSC) in 2000, when it was attempting
to develop and implement the AIT archi-tecture for Army logistics
operations in Korea. To meet DOD’s mile-stones, the 19th
TSC had to use its own funds and de-vise creative ways to acquire
funds to support the DOD ini-tiatives and provide the theater
commander with to-tal asset visibility. For example, the 19th
TSC con-vinced the Army Logistics Integration Agency (now the
Logistics Transformation Agency), which had the Army lead on
AIT, to shift funding from Europe to Korea.
The persistent lack of funding also caused significant problems
in fully leveraging AIT and achieving total asset visibility
during the first 12 months of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
OIF is one of the largest logistics efforts that the U.S. military
has ever undertaken. For example, of the $28.1 billion that
obligated for OIF, the services and the Defense Logistics
Agency reported that $14.2 billion were designated for operating
support costs and $4.9 billion were allocated
to transportation of the large numbers of personnel and huge
quantities of equipment that had to be moved long distances
into the Iraqi theater.
Logistics Deja Vu
GAO’s report to Congressman Jerry Lewis, chairman of
the House Appropriations Committee, stated that, “although
major combat operations during the initial phases of OIF were
successful, there were substantial logistics support problems.” GAO
reported that one of these problems was the duplication of
requisitions and circumvention of the supply system as a result
of inadequate asset visibility. Units operating in the theater
could not track equipment and supplies adequately because
asset visibility systems were not fully interoperable.
The same logistics issues that prevailed in Operation Desert
Storm caused commanders to resort to the “just-in-case” ordering
strategy in OIF, even though DOD had directed all activities
to implement its AIT plan. At the theater distribution center
in Kuwait, hundreds of pallets, containers, and boxes of supplies
and equipment piled up. Radio frequency identification (RFID)
tags were not used consistently in spite of an order issued
in January 2003 by General Paul J. Kern, Commander of the Army
Materiel Command, requiring that all air pallets, containers,
and commercial sustainment shipments supporting Operation
Enduring Freedom or future operations be identified with RFID
tags. Months earlier, General Tommy Franks, Commander of the
U.S. Central Command, had issued a policy requiring the use
of RFID tags when-ever feasible to track assets shipped to
The tactical environment of OIF presented many challenges that
doctrine or policy did not or could not consider. Without knowing
where the required CSS resources were or if they were available,
materiel managers could not conduct their mission effectively
or efficiently. However, because Soldiers are professionals,
they accomplished their mission by relying on their creative
abilities and skill to solve problems “on the fly.”
New DOD AIT Policy
AIT provided some value at the tactical level after the systems
network was established. However, funding shortages and the
requirement for the user to fund AIT solutions hindered development
of the AIT architecture to support operations in the tactical
environment. Lessons learned from OIF were captured by several
agencies in and out of DOD. These lessons caused DOD to reevaluate
its AIT policy.
On 30 July 2004, DOD issued a new AIT policy that addresses
the use of new technologies to capture asset visibility at
the strategic level, including defense contractor organizations,
but DOD did not provide guidance on funding AIT initiatives
at the tactical level. However, the Army recently awarded
a 3-year, $90-million contract to Savi Technologies, Inc.,
for radio frequency technology hardware, software, and services.
contract will enable the Army to buy a wide range of automatic
identification and data-collection technology to track supplies
worldwide. The Army and DOD will continue to commit money
to AIT in hopes of developing an im-proved asset visibility
However, the Army’s legacy systems still are not interoperable
or capable of fully supporting near-real-time visibility.
The Army’s CSS systems must be responsive, predictive,
and capable if they are to capitalize on AIT. The Army must
transform its CSS systems so that they are completely interoperable
and functional if they are to produce accurate and timely
information that is useful in supporting the warfighter.
(See chart at
left.) This transformation is critical to support of changing
battlefield conditions and information-centric operations.
Dedicated effort and resources are needed to ensure that
systems are capable of supporting asset visibility throughout
The CSS system must meet requirements that change with little
notice. Military leaders must assume that changes in priorities
will be the norm on current and future battlefields, and they
must be ready to respond quickly. The CSS structure should
focus on providing support as far forward as practical in the
tactical envi-ronment. All CSS logistics operations must be
designed, coordinated, and executed with a view toward providing
comprehensive and uninter-rupted support to the warfighter.
As the Army transforms, its asset visibility systems must
migrate toward a true “joint-centric” system.
Integrating systems and leveraging new technology will aid
in CSS transformation.
Through total asset visibility from the strategic to the
tactical level, the Army will be able to reduce its logistics
and provide just-in-time CSS support to the warfighter.
Kevin D. Kingsley is the Chief of the Property Accountability
Systems Branch, Combat Service Support Automation Management
Office, Office of the G–6, 21st Theater Support Command,
in Kaiserslautern, Germany. A retired Chief Warrant Officer
(W–4), he has a bachelor’s degree in management
from Upper Iowa University and is a graduate of the Sustaining
Base Leadership and Management Program.