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Where’s My Stuff?

The Asset Visibility system provides Department of Defense logisticians with timely and accurate information on the location and status of personnel and equipment.

For many years, the Department of Defense (DOD) has sought to improve the visibility of assets in the global distribution logistics pipeline and provide an integrated view of the location, movement, status, and identity of units, personnel, equipment, and supplies. The ability to track these assets answers the question on everyone’s mind: Where’s my stuff?

Asset Visibility

The web-based Asset Visibility (AV) system, managed by the Defense Logistics Information Service (DLIS) in Battle Creek, Michigan, was the first capability delivered by the Defense Logistics Agency’s (DLA’s) Integrated Data Environment (IDE). IDE provides a service-oriented architecture for DLA transformation programs and fulfills many logistics requirements, such as visibility of data, secure access to data, and improved data quality in terms of validity, timeliness, and accuracy.

AV works with other DOD initiatives, including the Defense Transportation Coordination Initiative (DTCI) and IDE/Global Transportation Network Convergence (IGC). DTCI is a joint project of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics; the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM); DLA; and the individual services. Its purpose is to refine the way DOD manages domestic freight shipments. The initiative will transition freight management to a third-party coordinator and help DOD adopt commercial best practices.

The IGC program is a joint initiative between TRANSCOM and DLA that will provide DOD with integrated end-to-end supply chain, deployment, and distribution data and information. The goal of IGC is to support the joint force commander’s ability to make decisions based on actionable logistics information.

AV provides pipeline data on materiel resources. Armed with this type of information in a joint logistics environment, Soldiers get firsthand knowledge of the availability and status of critical materiel and its location in the logistics pipeline. This helps to determine if assets are available within the immediate vicinity, if they can be rerouted, or if wholesale stocks are the only means of resupply.

The AV system is a segment of data capture tools that embody the generic term “logistics visibility.” The ultimate goal of logistics visibility is to provide a description of processes, resources, and requirements. AV deals with visibility of resources (supplies and equipment) and with visibility of arrivals and departures of passengers aboard military transport. AV is a tool provided to joint warfighters at all levels—strategic, operational, and tactical—but designed to assist customers at the tactical level. Joint force commanders need visibility of resources to assess capabilities and integrate logistics requirements.

Categories of Visibility

The AV system divides visibility of materiel into three basic categories: in-storage, in-process, and in-transit. In-use assets are a subset of the in-storage category and include unit equipment and clothing and individual equipment.

In-storage assets include all classes of supply, except class X (materials for nonmilitary programs), that are available for issue at a wholesale supply point to meet user demands from all military services or at retail-level supply support activities that store assets to support the mission objectives at that location.

In-process assets have been acquired from a source of supply but not shipped. In-transit assets have been shipped and are moving from a point of origin to a final destination but have not been received by the requester.

In-use assets are already issued to an organization or unit. Some of these assets are not normally visible in AV because they are no longer on accountable supply records. Unit equipment, on the other hand, is visible in AV because class VII (major end items) and some class II (clothing and individual equipment) assets are managed with property books or within an equipment management system that correlates authorization allowances to available on-hand balances. These assets are on accountable records and are part of the data feeds provided to AV from all branches of the U.S. military.

AV Users

Anyone who works in a joint logistics environment needs to have visibility to match resources with requirements. Soldiers on the ground can experience poor visibility of on-order or requisitioned materiel when working from remote locations or under austere conditions or while trying to keep stock at a certain level. Not knowing the status of critical parts or equipment results in duplicate requisitions being submitted to depots, which creates multiple shipments of the same asset and, ultimately, excess supplies that become labor intensive to report and redistribute. This creates unnecessary cargo movement, not to mention paperwork, and the high costs associated with it.

AV provides the latest status of requisitions that were submitted through the Defense Automatic Addressing System Center (DAASC). With a joint view, a logistician, planner, or maintenance coordinator can see how a requisition stacks up against all other requisitions in the system. Reports from AV can assist joint logisticians in making decisions about scheduling maintenance or seeking other sources of supply.

If operational requirements change, resources may need to be reallocated and shipments en route may need to be diverted to other locations. A search of inventory in AV may reveal that assets are available at nearby locations and could fill critical requirements. Anyone who is in the business of tracking materiel or who has a mission to ensure resources are in place for sustainment or operational requirements must have this visibility.

How to Use AV

As with any system, training makes an AV user more proficient. DLIS offers an official 8-hour course that provides hands-on training and a comprehensive walkthrough of all the query functions. However, formal training is not necessary; the program is intuitive, and users can easily work through the steps. Online help is available if you need a description of the process, and the computer-based training includes a detailed, step-by-step curriculum. Pocket reference guides are distributed during briefings, demonstrations, and training classes and are also provided upon request by the AV program management office (PMO).

To make use even easier, AV offers predefined queries that answer most questions about the location of materiel. The AV homepage outlines all predefined queries, and each AV category listed includes functional areas of the predefined queries. For example, if you are searching for ammunition available for issue, select a predefined query that falls under “in-storage” and “ammunition.” If you are searching for unit equipment that is authorized and on hand at designated units, select a predefined query under “in-storage” and “unit equipment.” To find status of requisitioned materiel, select a query under “in-process” and “requisition summary” (for the latest status only) or “requisition history” (for a complete history of transactions).

In-transit information is data from the Global Transportation Network, which gets its data from multiple sources, such as the Global Air Transportation Execution System, Cargo Movement Operations System, Global Decision Support System, Global Freight Management, and DAASC. AV also gets up-to-the-minute data feeds from the global radio frequency in-transit visibility server for all cargo with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags moving through transportation channels. AV displays nomenclature, quantity, document number, and precise locations as these tags are read from one interrogation point to another until the cargo reaches its final destination.

Inventory and in-transit data can be found on all classes of supply, including bulk fuel, spare parts, pre-positioned stocks, and even blood supplies. In addition to materiel status queries, AV offers predefined queries for reference data. If a user has a DOD activity address code (DODAAC) and needs a mailing, freight, or billing address, AV has a predefined query that provides that information. If a user wants a description for an item with a national stock number or the item’s price, unit of issue, source of supply, or interchangeable and substitutable items, AV has a query to provide the data.

If no predefined query meets the user’s individual need, a query simply can be modified or built. After defining the query, users can save it as a personal query for future use or even send it to another user. The AV application offers several options for query building. Users can turn data into charts or graphs and format and display the data in many ways.

AV Data

AV data come from authoritative sources from all military services and DLA. More than 40 files are uploaded every day. For example, in-transit data are received from the Global Transportation Network, TRANSCOM, and the RF in-transit visibility server. The Global Transportation Network integrates data from multiple systems, such as the Global Air Transportation Execution System, Cargo Movement Operations System, Global Freight Management, and Commercial Electronic Data Exchange. Data in AV are near-real time, with data exchange occurring as frequently as every 15 minutes for RFID tag records and DAASC requisition transactions.

The Logistics Information Warehouse sends new files for prepositioned stocks, unit equipment, retail and wholesale supplies, and ammunition every day. AV accepts these files and, through the extraction and load process, loads the data that have changed since the last file was received. So, the data shown for the Army are near-real time and updated at least every 24 hours. Unless stock is moving in and out of a storage point at a high rate, the data are considered current. The Federal Logistics Information System (FLIS), which does not have frequent changes, is updated monthly. FLIS data are known as reference data in AV.

Asset Visibility Enhancements

The AV PMO is involved in updating the system to work better, faster, and more efficiently. Many of the enhancements approved by the Joint Functional Requirements Board have come directly from users’ suggestions. In the near future, AV users can expect to see more bulk fuels data as DLA data feeds increase. Passive RFID tag tracking is now visible in AV, and the function will improve as requirements to track passive tags increase.

The Logistics Information Network integration will occur when the current Logistics Information Network application transitions into AV. Former Defense Emergency Supply Expert System users are already using AV to locate materiel and check on the status of requisitions. The AV PMO and the Intelligent Road/Rail Information System (IRRIS) PMO have partnered to provide a mapping capability that takes the data from AV and shows locations (by DODAAC) on a map in IRRIS. The first spiral development is complete, and future enhancements will allow users to click on a location and display inventory availability data for that location.

Accessing Asset Visibility

Access to AV requires the use of a DOD common access card (CAC) or external certificate authority card. The user must be granted permission to use the system and have access to the Internet. AV is on both the Unclassified but Sensitive Internet Protocol Router Network and the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network. For simplicity, only the process for the unclassified site is discussed here.

When users access the AV homepage (https://www.av.dla.mil/welcome), they will be prompted for a DOD public key infrastructure certificate from their CACs. When the AV welcome page is displayed, users must select “Request an Account” from the top toolbar to be taken to the Global Combat Support System-Joint (GCSS–J) portal.

Users must register online for GCSS–J single sign-on portal access and an AV account. After verification of eligibility from the Joint Personnel Adjudication System and the Global Directory Service, access for military and Government civilians is usually granted in 48 to 72 hours. Access for Government contractors and foreign nationals working for the U.S. Government might take longer because sponsorship letters from their U.S. employers are required. Foreign nationals working for their own governments are not currently eligible, but with integration of WebLink International into AV, role-based access will be granted to view foreign military sales requisitions.

AV is designed for warfighters at all levels of command to use in a joint logistics environment, but it is not a replacement for service-owned logistics systems. However, if you are away from home station and need to check on the availability of stock, the status of your requisition, or how soon supplies will be delivered, AV can provide that capability. For more information, visit the AV website or send comments or questions to avpmo@dla.mil.

Roy E. Gulledge works for Amyx, Inc., as the Asset Visibility program management support contract project manager at the Defense Logistics Agency. He is a retired Air Force chief master sergeant with 26 years in the logistics career field. He has over 10 years of experience with joint logistics studies and applications, such as the Joint Total Asset Visibility system.