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U.S. Transportation Command News Service (Oct. 6, 2006): TRANSCOM named DoD's lead proponent for RFID and related AIT.

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- In a Sept. 26, 2006, memorandum from the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, U.S. Transportation Command was designated as the lead functional proponent for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and related Automated Identification Technology (AIT) implementation for the Department of Defense supply chain.

As the DPO, USTRANSCOM is responsible for the overall effectiveness, efficiency, and alignment of DoD-wide distribution activities, including force projection, sustainment, and redeployment and retrograde operations.

AIT is a suite of technologies that enables capture of source data, thereby enhancing the ability to identify, track, document, and control material, maintenance processes, deploying and redeploying forces, equipment, personnel, and sustainment cargo. This suite includes Linear Bar Codes, 2-dimensional Symbols, Optical Memory Cards, Satellite-Tracking Systems, Contact Memory Buttons, and RFID tags.

RFID tags (or transponders), which have been around since the 1980s, are small devices that are affixed to objects such as cargo pallets, containers, or individual items and which store information. Readers (or interrogators), both stationary and hand-held, read and write information from and to an embedded chip in the tags. The tags are read remotely when they detect a radio frequency signal from a reader. These readers then display tag information or send it over a network to back-end systems.

Active RFID tags, which contain an internal battery with up to eight years of life, can be read over long ranges (100 feet or more). Active RFID tags contain transportation information and support in-transit visibility.

Passive RFID tags consist of a computer chip attached to small antennae. They contain no battery; the tag "reflects" an ID number back to a reader. They have a shorter range of one to three feet and can be used to support business process enhancements, such as improved materiel receipt.

"We are implementing passive RFID at our aerial ports and are continuing to look at how passive RFID can benefit our business processes," said Air Force Lt. Col. Amy Pappas, chief of the Initiatives Branch of USTRANSCOM's Strategy, Plans, Policy, and Programs Directorate, the office that is the command's lead element for AIT implementation. "We are also exploring how satellite technology can be used to track shipments."

Private industry uses RFID tags--active and especially passive--as well as other AIT extensively to improve the asset visibility and in-transit visibility of their supply chains. Based on the success of these technologies in the commercial sector, the Defense Department, led by USTRANSCOM, has been implementing RFID and other AIT to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its distribution system.

USTRANSCOM is using AIT to achieve better visibility of its shipments. Pappas explained that there is an extensive active RFID infrastructure in place at strategic ports worldwide. This allows USTRANSCOM to know when shipments arrive and depart these ports, and this information is fed to USTRANSCOM's Global Transportation Network, an automated command and control information system that provides an integrated system of intransit visibility information and command and control capabilities.

Mirabella is with U.S. Transportation Command Public Affairs at Scott AFB, Ill.

Maj. G. P. Mirabella, USAF
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Title Annotation:In the News
Author:Mirabella, G.P.
Publication:Defense AT & L
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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