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AUSA panel addresses need to better connect logisticians.

"Connect Logisticians," which is one of the focus areas of Army Logistics Transformation, was the subject of a panel chaired by Major General Mitchell H. Stevenson, the Army Materiel Command's Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics and Operations, at the Association of the U.S. Army's (AUSA's) 2004 Logistics Symposium. The symposium was held in Richmond, Virginia, 6 to 8 April. Other panelists were Lieutenant General Otto J. Guenther, USA (Ret.), Vice President and General Manager of Tactical Systems Division at Northrop Grumman Mission Systems; Major General Conrad W. Ponder, Chief Integration Officer (CIO), Office of the Army CIO/G-6; Ms. Modell Plummer, Director of Sustainment, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4; and Colonel John J. Erb, USA (Ret.), Deputy Director of Strategic Logistics, J-4.

In spite of the great strides that have been made in Army logistics since Desert Storm, Stevenson said that Army logisticians still cannot see requirements on the battlefield and their customers cannot adequately see supplies coming their way. Two systems that show great promise in connecting the logistician are the small satellite terminals now in use in Southwest Asia, and the Movement Tracking System (MTS), which provides a wireless, mobile, satellite-based two-way text messaging system designed to provide command and control over transportation assets supporting theater distribution operations. The MTS can identify current vehicle locations and send text messages to and from MTS-equipped vehicles.

According to General Guenther, the Army rightly views logistics as a holistic enterprise rather than as a series of stovepipe systems. This is essential to achieving near-real-time, anticipatory logistics support for warfighters. However, it cannot be accomplished without adequate communications bandwidth, a capability that can only be realized if both military and commercial means are used. Private industry has the ability today to provide the Army with an interim communications network that could support future networks and future force structure. This would support the Chief of Staff's imperative to bring future force capabilities to current forces. Further, it would connect Army logisticians by providing end-to-end logistics situational awareness and understanding. That, stated Guenther, should be enhanced by providing logisticians with a similar unit tracking system that combat units possess with Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2), a system he called Logistics Blue Force Tracking.

Guenther pointed out that today's logistics business systems provide information that is as timely and relevant as the information that is necessary for the command and control (C2) systems. Therefore, the information architecture must support data flows that inform both the business systems from the tactical level to the national level as well as the C2 systems from the warfighter up to the joint C2 at the theater combatant commander or joint task force commander level. This is critical to providing accurate sustainability assessments as well as allowing for informed decisions on distribution priorities. The Army's adoption of commercial Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions is a major departure from the former business practices and a significant step toward building the required information architecture. However, to be successful the Army must provide visionary subject-matter experts to support the process design with expedited decisionmaking and governance by senior leaders.

As noted by Ms. Plummer, gaps in information transfer during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) occurred because initially, satellite communications were not available at logistics nodes and continental United States-based units that deployed to OIF were not adequately equipped and trained in the use of intransit visibility tools, such as radio frequency identification (RFID) read-write capability, which made it difficult to link supplies with the units needing them. As a result, soldiers lacked confidence that what they ordered would get through to them.

Major General Ponder stressed the need for connectivity from factory to foxhole. Ponder also noted the successful use of very small aperture terminals (VSATs) and the wireless Combat Service Support Automated Information System Interface (CAISI) to fulfill this need. VSATs allow voice, data, and video communication at any location, including remote sites. The CAISI can function in garrison to extend the local area network to units without connectivity and to tactical environments without changing network addresses. With this type of "plug-and-play" communication system, deployed units can use the same systems they use in garrison to set up and begin operations quickly.

Colonel Erb pointed out that the Army shares the challenge of providing connectivity to field logisticians with the Marine Corps and ground force coalition partners. He stated that billions of dollars are being spent by the Department of Defense to replace antiquated legacy transaction and information systems; therefore, dedicated communication systems are required to enable these process engineering efforts to achieve their full potential.

The Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T), which is scheduled for fielding in the 2008 timeframe, will exploit the Global Information Grid to connect all users in the theater to the maneuver battalion, to joint and multinational elements, and to the Defense Information System Network. The WIN-T network will provide command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support capabilities that are mobile, secure, survivable, seamless, and capable of supporting multimedia tactical information systems within the warfighters' battlespace.
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:ALOG News
Publication:Army Logistician
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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