Report on Defense IT: Pentagon simplifies its supply lines
- By Dawn S. Onley
- Jun 25, 2004
Project aims to integrate logistics systems under single architecture
'Every time we turn over a rock we find more systems.'
Henrik G. de Gyor
The military runs more than 3,000 supply chain systems, a number that dwarfs even the Defense Department's financial systems tally by several hundred.
So many lines of supply has led, inevitably, to redundancies and other problems caused by decentralization. Troops in battle have sometimes gone one way, their supplies another.
'The systems need to be integrated. And there is a need for total asset visibility,' Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, said during a recent hearing .
Gary Jones, acting assistant deputy undersecretary of Defense for the Logistics Systems Management Office, is overseeing the integration of the logistics systems into one architecture, called the BEA-Log.
Both the logistics and financial architectures are to become part of DOD's overarching business enterprise architecture'being developed by the Business Management Modernization Program office'as will five other key business areas.
'There's a hierarchy of architectures,' Jones said. 'You've got the federal architecture, the business enterprise architecture, the domain architectures. Then under the domain architectures you have the components [military services]. When the components do their architectures, it has to be consistent with what we do here at the Logistics Systems Management Office.'Successful pilots
Jones said his office developed a strategy to guide the services in implementing several pilot programs using enterprise resource planning:
- The Navy's pilot to oversee its supply, maintenance, program management and working capital fund
- The Army's Wholesale Logistics Modernization Program
- The Defense Logistics Agency's Business Systems Modernization.
Each of the pilots is using software from SAP America Inc. of Newtown Square, Pa.
'They've all gone live and all have been moderately successful,' Jones said. 'We have become the advocate for ERP. That's forming the basis for how we're going to go from 3,000 systems to a few.'
DOD has established a Portfolio Management Working Group of representatives from military agencies to discuss plans for migration to the new logistics environment.
The seven areas that make up DOD's business enterprise architecture are acquisition, accounting and financial management, logistics, environmental liabilities, personnel and readiness, program and budget, and technology infrastructure and real property.
The key to managing thousands of logistics systems, Jones said, is the Supply Chain Operations Reference Model, which includes metrics for process performance. The model, developed by the Supply Chain Council, an organization of logistics companies, defines common supply chain management processes and matches them against best practices.Q & A
'How do you go from 3,000 systems to a modern integrated enterprise?' Jones said. 'You have some level of architecture design that you have to do to get there. The SCOR Model gives us the foundation to produce the architecture.'
Jones's office is developing a data strategy and a technique for managing a portfolio from the 'as is' to the 'to be' environment. That strategy is known as the Enterprise Integrated Data Environment, which looks for common processes across DOD's supply chain systems.
The integrated environment will tie systems together by giving users a common interface to exchange logistics information, Jones said.
'Given that we know we're going live in a heterogeneous software environment, we need to plan to be integrated at some level, and that's the data level. Metadata is the principle,' Jones said. 'It's a concept, but it's being implemented in the Defense Logistics Agency right now. We want each of the services to create an IDE.'
Defense needs the environment to eliminate redundant logistics applications and to recognize common processes, such as multiple maintenance, wholesale and retail systems, according to Beth Cox of BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va., a consultant on the integration project.
'There are a lot of redundancies. Do we need to do that? Couldn't we have a common supply system? We're trying to find common processes as much as we can,' Cox said.
The military will build interfaces to many apps and eliminate others.
'We're building intelligent interfaces,' Jones said. 'In the first years of the program, we reviewed and made changes to maybe 50 or 60 systems out of 3,000. Every time we turn over a rock, we find more systems. It's forced us to go to portfolio management processes.'
The logistics architecture is going to guide the transformation and management of the business systems in logistics. The architecture is compliant with what DOD calls the DOD Architecture Framework Version 1.0.
The BEA-Log will comply with the architecture framework, which requires architectures developed by Defense agencies to be integrated and interoperable with the systems plans of other Defense agencies and allied forces.
'We've asked each of the services to put together a migration plan that starts to give us our first feelings of what capabilities we have, what gaps we have, what systems we can go to,' Jones said.
The office plans to finish a second revision of the logistics architecture in early July and then begin implementing the plan.