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Maneuver Warfare demands maneuver logistics based on a foundation of RFID 2.0.

SEAL Team Five's Bravo Commander Lt. Ludwig slid off his NVGs and checked his watch and silently signaled the rest of the team to cast out and shape a perimeter operation for decisive action. The SEAL Team's "sneak and peak" in the Anbar province was designed to support a Marine operation the next morning. But as with most SEAL Operations, this one was anything but routine.


The SEALs went in light and fast. The team dispersed to three operating positions when the silence was shattered by the unmistakable rat-tat-tat of small arms fire. Almost instantly it mushroomed into a barrage of heavy fire. Corpsman Decker, the biggest guy in the platoon at 240 pounds without gear, backed through an IED-wired door with a deafening blast; he went down like a heavy bag torn from its hinges. Ludwig consolidated the team as someone yelled "Deck got fragged through his old vest, Medic down!" The SEAL team consolidated to a single defensive position.

Aerial reconnaissance showed bad guys jumping roof to roof toward the SEALs. Lt. Ludwig had to think fast. He grabbed for a flash-bang grenade, the perfect welcome for the fast approaching unfriendlies ... but it wasn't there.

"Fennig- Comms!"

Radio Specialist Fennig crawled to Ludwig with comms. Lud had an idea that just might work, but it was risky. He called in a nearby Bradley (infantry fighting vehicle) to take out the second and third stories of the building they were in.

"Everyone get under a door jamb and get down, we're blowing the roof off this sucka!"

The plan worked and the SEALs bugged out safely. Back at Camp Corregidor they had a major problem. The operation taking place tomorrow was planned against a force one-third the size of what the SEALs uncovered; worse yet, two other Ops were dependant on this one happening. Thanks to the daring work of Team Five, the base commander had critical information he needed for success, but not the support. The SEAL team was missing critical items, indicative of a team that has done thousands of operations in just a few months. Inventory and replenishment was the last thing on their mind. Using resources to inventory and verify shipments isn't a reality in their world.

Captain Shannon leaned over CWO Simpson's shoulder as he logged onto the NextGen logistics system. They ran down a list of materiel to be allocated to Camp Corregidor in the next 12 hours. Shannon was, for all intents and purposes, "Googling her stuff." As Simpson entered critical materiel requirements, containers popped up on the screen's map showing inventory down to the individual items inside single boxes. They could see boxes of 5.56 rounds, replacement tank tracks, and everything in between. In just minutes they found all the materiel requirements and orders sent to overnight ship. Everything was rerouted to support the operation that successfully squelched the next day's major insurgency.

Battlefield Agility supported through rear echelon agility--that's maneuver logistics, and it's closer than you think.

The US Military is fighting wars with 21st century technology in a more diverse, agile, and faster way than ever before. The DOD is finally laying the infrastructure for logistics to support those same requirements. Maneuver Warfare demands Maneuver Logistics, or the ability to have visibility, agility, and rapid response with every piece of materiel that supports kinetic engagements.

Maneuver logistics must be driven by the latest generation in automatic identification technology (AIT) to be effective. Thirty-five years ago this meant a bar code. Today it means radio frequency identification (RFID).

RFID comes in two forms--battery-based active RFID tags that go on the outside of containers, and tiny passive RFID tags that go on everything else. The active tags are the size of a Coke can and cost $50 to $75. The passive tags are the size of a stamp and cost less than ten cents. Active RFID--commonly known as Savi Tags--has helped move the DOD logistics execution forward an entire generation. But active is only the tip of the iceberg. Corpsman Decker couldn't have been helped by an active tag because they are too big for individual items, but if he had a passive tag that could tell him his vest was well beyond its useful life before he deployed he might not have spent six weeks in the hospital. Active tags helped find the right containers, but passive tags tell the rest of the story.

For instance, a passive tag can be put on all components used by a SpecOps warrior, and each warrior can walk through a portable portal set up to get a green light if he has all the right gear or a red light if he's missing something or something is beyond useful life. If he's missing something or it's out of spec, an automatic order for replenishment can be sent with no human involvement back to HQ. With such a system, Decker would have been wearing a new vest, and Ludwig wouldn't have been missing a flash-bang. The first generation of RFID (1.0) was for retail stores and science projects; the next generation of RFID (2.0) is DOD grade technology.


The passive RFID initiative started in 2003 with the announcement that the DOD was going to follow WalMart and make all their suppliers use tags. Many people will lament that neither initiative was well thought out and ultimately caused RFID to falter. Six years later, the passive infrastructure is spreading like a dust storm across the desert. The more readers that get put in, the more value the system provides. It started with the largest, most successful deployment of passive RFID in history when the DLA stood up dock door portals at every CONUS DDC using the new ISO 18000-6 standard in 2006. This allows today's DOD to see when new items arrive from suppliers without ever having to take stretch wrap off pallets. A pallet of 50 different items comes through the dock and it updates inventory automatically. Now that same standards-based RFID is spreading to all other military branches.

In the last year there has been a perfect storm in the RFID world that has increased return on investment, provided greater benefit to the warfighter, and increased security across the DOD. When RFID 1.0 came about, everyone in technology jumped on board--then reality set in and people realized the technology had just been brought out of MIT's lab and wasn't ready for prime time. The crotchety old loggies who had been using bar codes for thirty years screamed, "I told you so!"

Well, all the investment, research, experimentation, and benchmarking of 2003 to 2006 started to pay off in 2007 and 2008. No longer was the physics a mystery to people. New specialty tags were designed to work on metal or around liquids. Passive tags can be read in three dimensions inside a warehouse for just pennies an item. And soon specialized RFID middleware will become obsolete as the intelligence sits on the readers and sends data directly to applications like SARRS or GCSSArmy. This is the infrastructure needed to support maneuver logistics: intelligence at every point in the supply chain tracking every critical item.

RFID 2.0 is mature, high-performing technology, a stabilized global standard and dramatically reduced costs. With the passive and active infrastructure coming together, Maneuver Logistics is a real possibility. RFID 2.0 means knowing about your stuff at the item level, with the click of a mouse.

Now that the technology works, the RFID industry is maturing to repeatable, easy-to-deploy solutions. The days of cobbling together custom solutions are fading away as RFID 1.0 melts into a foggy memory. On page 24 you'll read about SMART Containers that combine satellite, GPS, and passive RFID technology, completely integrated in under a minute. Medical divisions are tracking devices with RFID-enabled cabinets. Deployment kits can be run through tunnels to verify contents of duffel bags. Tires will stay compliant by driving over RFID strips giving the driver a red light or green light. All of these applications leverage a common data structure, an international standard, and the guiding strategy that using people to count and verify is not only a waste of precious resources, but not nearly as effective. Maneuver Logistics is enabled by knowing where every item is in real time, and by being able to move it where you need it when you need it in support of the warfighter.

In the next ten years, the United States Department of Defense will acquire more RFID readers than computers. The passive tags will enable items to securely connect to the DOD's secure cloud, and an "Internet of Things" will provide security, agility, safety, and speed never before possible. Machines will be feeding information to sophisticated support systems, and leaders throughout the military will finally have accurate, real-time information to drive intelligent action. RFID 2.0 is a cornerstone force in that transformation.

From the conclusion of World War II to the early 1980s, the US has spent billions of dollars building up technology. Then, in 1989, the Commandant of the US Marine Corp officially adopted the principles of Col. John Boyd into a doctrine of Maneuver Warfare--small, agile fighting forces rapidly deployed to fight everyone from rogue dictators to multi-state terrorist organizations. Finally, 20 years later, the non-kinetic requirements are receiving the technology investment to catch up with the fighting forces. RFID 2.0 is the foundation for Maneuver Logistics. RFID 2.0 can use machines rather than soldiers to make sure that the United States fighting forces have all the right equipment at the right time, faster than ever before. RFID is truly the future for the DOD.

By Patrick Sweeney

Founder & CEO, ODIN Technologies
COPYRIGHT 2009 National Defense Transportation Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:Sweeney, Patrick
Publication:Defense Transportation Journal
Date:Sep 1, 2009
Previous Article:RFIDefense[TM].
Next Article:RFID where the rubber meets the road, driven by global standards.

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