The Army is implementing a revolutionary
system that allows commanders and logistics
Soldiers at all levels to see in real time what they have and where they have it. The Logistics Reporting Tool (LRT) can track everything from bottled water to missiles and nonstandard equipment (such as sport utility vehicles) to barracks occupancy. Software developers refined the tool around the needs of logisticians (as defined by them) and delivered solutions to fit those needs.
The effort to have LRT widely embraced by the Army is being spearheaded by the 1st Infantry Division G–3 in Iraq. The section began the effort by coordinating with both the 36th Sustainment Brigade, which was responsible for logistics throughout southern Iraq when the “Big Red One” came to the theater, and the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC), which was the theater-level logistics command. The 1st Infantry Division assumed command and control of U.S. Division-South on 1 February 2010, and in March, Captain David Shaffer began working to put LRT into use by the division and its subordinate units in theater.
LRT is a small part of the Battle Command Sustainment Support System (BCS3), which has had mixed reviews because of experiences Soldiers had with the earlier, unrefined version of the system. BCS3 is now managed by the Boeing subsidiary Tapestry Solutions, Inc., and it is a far cry from the software most Soldiers remember. However, convincing Soldiers of this has been a bit of a battle, according to Shaffer.
Initially, Shaffer was also skeptical because of an encounter he had with an earlier version of BCS3 in 2006. Shortly after taking on the project, he called Larry Wise, a field service engineer (FSE) for Tapestry Solutions, Inc., and a retired Army command sergeant major. According to the two, their first meeting was the result of a “heated discussion” and a challenge from Wise for Shaffer to visit Contingency Operating Base Adder to have some of his perceptions corrected.
Once Wise had the chance to walk Shaffer, an experienced logistician, through the tremendous functionality the program offered, Shaffer became an LRT believer. Shaffer, Wise, and every ally they could find then worked to gain acceptance of LRT. The key to progress came from working directly with the logisticians who needed to use the software. “You get them in there, and you get them to stop thinking about everything they don’t want to do and get them looking at what they need to do,” Wise said.
Chief Warrant Officer Kristie-Marie Dean, the sustainment automation support management chief for the 36th Sustainment Brigade, said that the current LRT is notably different from the original software. “It’s more functional, easier to put it online, [does] not [have] so many steps, [is] more user-friendly, and uses terms that deal more with military terms and not civilian terms,” said Dean.
Colonel Sean Ryan, the 36th Sustainment Brigade commander, is familiar with the issues Shaffer and Wise encountered. As a civilian, Ryan works with the implementation of software in corporate environments. When he first encountered the LRT during the 36th Sustainment Brigade’s mobilization, Ryan immediately saw the usefulness of the program. “I had to do a lot of convincing that we were going to do this,” Ryan said. “Having [Shaffer] come in, and having that support from the division, gave me the momentum that I needed to push it forward.”
Ryan noted that he knows from experience that any software is going to have issues when it is first fielded. The only answer is to get into the program and identify the bugs. “We’ve spent millions of dollars to field these systems, and I just felt it was my duty to do a proof of concept to start really understanding how to utilize it [and] figure out what the true shortfalls are.”
Greg Miller, a retired logistics sergeant major and the BCS3 FSE embedded with the 13th ESC, said the LRT has come a long way from the original system introduced in 2004. “It’s an outstanding tool,” Miller said. “It starts from the bottom end with the user, and as soon as the user inputs, everybody can see it.” The information entered at the field level is viewable all the way back in the United States only seconds later, giving commanders at all levels an immediate and realistic picture of what is on the ground.
Miller said LRT also saves time and effort and puts logisticians back to work doing logistics work instead of PowerPoint slides and Excel spreadsheets. “Depending on the level of the unit, the units probably spend 3 to 4 or more man-hours per day collecting their reports,” Miller said. “That’s 28 man-hours [a week]; that’s a half a person that you’ve given back to the unit.”
“It’s going to free-up a lot of time for Soldiers,” said Chief Warrant Officer Dean. “It’s going to take the time down below to enter the data, but once that data is entered, it just becomes a logistical tool for us to analyze.”