Recognizing the need for one logistics system
that will meet the need of all units,
the Army has decided to adopt an enterprise resource planning
system developed by SAP. The new system will revolutionize
Army logistics automation.
Throughout the history of warfare, great intellectual
and monetary investments have been made to improve warfighting
capability. Progress has been substantial, but it has tended
to occur sporadically. For example, most advances in weaponry
have been evolutionary and have involved the improvement of
existing weapons. Every few decades, revolutionary advancements
increased potential lethality. However, there also have been
long periods during which little to no change occurred. An
early example of this is the bow, which was first used late
in the Stone Age. The 4- to 5-foot-long bow used in India
remained essentially unchanged for about 2,200 years. Another
example is gunpowder, which was invented in China in the 9th
century, was known in Europe by the year 1250, yet took another
50 to 75 years before its potential for lethality could be
The logistics arena has shared the same rate of uneven progress.
Providing logistics to a fighting force has been a particularly
daunting challenge to military leaders throughout history.
History’s most successful military commanders have always
carefully considered the logistics implications whenever forming
and executing an engagement plan. Conversely, several of history’s
greatest strategists and tacticians were soundly defeated
by miscalculating the logistics requirement.
The Army began automating logistics at the depot level in
the mid-20th century when computers became available. Logistics
automation worked its way to the unit level as computers became
smaller and computer technology became more readily available.
On the surface, logistics automation appears to be a tame
enough topic. However, when one considers the readiness implications
associated with ineffective logistics flow and the Army’s
adoption of automated logistics management platforms, it is
clear that, although logistics automation has enabled great
capabilities, it also is potentially a major point of failure.
The only revolutionary step taken in Army logistics in the
last 30 years has been the automation of the Army’s
manual supply system at the unit level. Since that point,
progress has been made with evolutionary improvements in business
processes and technology, but nothing that can be considered
revolutionary. The table below illustrates how the Army has
evolved automated logistics systems by simply transferring
them onto more powerful hardware platforms without addressing
the major historical problems and known capability gaps.
In essence, the Army’s pattern has been to duplicate
the limited functionality of incumbent systems onto more capable
hardware platforms. To address the problems that continued
with the systems, local software vendors sold installations
or commands programs to use with their systems that corrected
the problems. These stopgap programs are known as “local
uniques.” As a result, the Army-wide systems that were
intended to provide continuity became a series of similar,
but different, systems. The argument that local uniques are
an improvement could be refuted by analyzing their data accuracy
or latency response.
It can be argued that the only true advances have been system
enablers such as radio frequency identification, portable
data collection devices, the Combat Service Support Automated
Information Systems Interface, and the Very Small Aperture
Terminals tested and proven during several engagements leading
up to and including Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi
Some tactical logisticians would argue that the systems we
have work just fine. However, it may be that our Soldiers
have simply become accustomed to, and accepted, a lower standard
of performance. Ample historical precedent exists to support
the idea that we do not recognize what our equipment is lacking
until we receive something better. For example, chariots were
used to carry archers and scythes were affixed to the wheels
to make them more lethal, but the chariot remained a chariot
until it was replaced by the tank. It was only then that it
was realized how much capability the chariot was lacking.
Enterprise Resource Planning Solution
While en route to replicating legacy systems a sixth time under the Global Combat
Support System-Army (Field/Tactical) (GCSS-Army [F/T]), the project abruptly
paused to receive fresh guidance from the Army’s logistics leaders. The
new guidance stated that Army logistics systems would move to an enterprise resource
planning (ERP) solution using a SAP commercial off-the-shelf software product.
An ERP system integrates all data processes of an organization into a unified
system, typically using multiple components of computer hardware and software
with a central database. The ERP solution allows the GCSS-Army (F/T) development
team to provide for data integration and to reengineer business processes. The
table below illustrates how integration will resolve nagging historical
Below is an illustration of one of the dynamic improvements under development.
The interactive “Fill Rate and Demand Satisfaction Analysis” view
allows a material requirements planning (MRP) controller (item manager) to view
the current fill rate by MRP area (supply support activity) and take action on
the stock numbers that are contributing negatively to the overall fill rate.
This tool is only one of many developed by the GCSS-Army (F/T) development team
to enable proactive and interactive materiel management.
is the Fill Rate and Demand
Satisfaction Analysis view within GCSS-Army (F/T).
A 4-month operational assessment of GCSS-Army
is scheduled to begin in October with the Regimental Support
Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, at Fort Irwin, California.
A revolutionary step is finally being taken in the area of
logistics software and business process reengineering. Coupled
with Very Small Aperture Terminals, radio frequency identification,
improved tracking technology, and integrated electronic technical
manuals, this logistics system will deliver the vision that
senior Army logistics leaders had many years ago for revolutionizing
Chief Warrant Officer (W–5) Antonio Ocasio, USA (Ret.),
works for L3 Communications supporting the Project Manager
Enterprise Logistics System’s Global Combat Support
System-Army (Field/Tactical) Project. He holds a bachelor’s
degree in business management and is a graduate of the Army
Logistics Management College’s Logistics Executive Development