Be more like Land's End, Army chief tells Materiel Command

'Requisitions need to be visible to everybodyin the system,' Gen. Paul Kern says.

Henrik G. de Gyor

Let soldiers order their desert camouflage uniforms just like they'd place an order for a parka online with the Land's End clothing company. That's the challenge Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, has issued to the Materiel Command.

Gen. Paul Kern, commander of the Army Materiel Command, announced the chief of staff's challenge last week at the Industry Advisory Council's ELC.

'We need to focus on Web-based systems for placing requisition orders and tracking the fulfillment process, transportation and delivery in the theater,' Kern said. 'Requisitions need to be visible to everybody in the system.'

The Materiel Command's chief said that industry would play a crucial role in helping the command integrate its logistics function into the Defense Department's Global Information Grid, a departmentwide network backbone.

'We have been talking about building a more rapidly deployable and more efficient force for the last 50 years. The only way we can do that is with IT,' Kern said.

Through GIG, Defense for the first time will weave logistics functions in with other information capabilities. 'In the past we would have built a [separate] logistics network,' he said.

The war in Iraq helped clarify some of the problems. Network communications weren't always available to Army logistics staff sending supplies from Kuwait into Iraq, Kern said.

At Arifjohn, the primary U.S. base in Kuwait for deploying forces into Iraq, thousands of containers arrived each day during the conflict in Iraq. The containers had radio frequency identification tags that identified what was in each pallet, but Army staff still had trouble finding what they needed, Kern said.

'We had organizations looking through containers for 21 days, not able to communicate back [to headquarters] what they were looking for,' he said. Then, thousands of pieces of equipment and supplies sent into Iraq never made it to the right destinations.

'Communications depended on land-based, line-of-sight communications that couldn't keep up with the speed of people in the theater. Many parts never made it north because of a lack of communication,' Kern said.

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