Pentagon mulls logistics upgrade

Notice seeks a GIS system for tracking, routing shipments

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Donald Marsh processes inbound cargo at Balad Air Base, Iraq. The Transportation Command is considering a system like those used in the private sector for routing and rerouting cargo.

Airman 1st Class Nathan Doza/U.S. Air Force

The Defense Department is collecting information about commercially available logistics software that provides online mapping and management information to keep track of freight and passengers in transit.

A recently issued sources-sought notice from DOD's Transportation Command could signal that the military may seek to upgrade or replace its logistics management systems.

The command specified that the system it seeks would combine various technologies from government and private sources into a single access point for military transportation analysts. The system would allow analysts to visually track cargo and personnel in transit.

The system specified in the notice would allow analysts to reroute shipments and furnish overall transportation decision-support capabilities. The command seeks a system flexible enough to accommodate new technologies as they become available. It would include an online geographic information system, an easy-to-learn user interface, and information on road conditions, construction, weather and other factors affecting surface transportation in real time.

Logistics executives in the private sector use similar systems to route and reroute cargo, track shipments, map routes, generate directions for drivers, locate addresses on maps, skirt transportation delays, choose the shortest or least expensive routes and control costs such as fuel expenses.

A challenge in Transcom's request is the structure of government GIS resources. A fully integrated logistics system, such as that described in the notice, would require a level of data interaction among federal, state and local governments not currently in place.

However, several companies have embarked on such systems, and universities have been testing and researching the technology.

Such a system could be developed with additional information from the military and other government sources, specialists in the field say. The Transportation Department's Intelligent Transportation Systems division is developing 511, a nationwide three-digit information service using that phone number to provide information about travel conditions.

Transportation's 511 service is available to about 44 percent of the population now, and the department plans to extend the system to 65 percent of the population by next year. The information provided by 511 could be used to populate the military's requested transportation system.

Transcom uses several logistics management tools and applications from Lockheed Martin. The company's longest-running system with the agency is the Global Transportation Network, an online cargo and personnel tracking system installed 12 years ago. The system is multimodal, tracking across air, land and sea transport routes.

GTN, which has been online since 1996, integrates commercial and government information across approximately 26 DOD systems. This summer, Lockheed upgraded the system to add a data warehouse. Plans call for the warehouse to support operations at Transcom and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), said Angela Heise, director of focused logistics at Lockheed.

Transcom now uses about 290 systems to help plan and manage its logistics tasks, Heise said. The command seeks to shutter duplicate systems and evolve its technology following an evaluation of its architecture and technology needs, she added.

The data warehouse installed by Lockheed will be used as a data backbone for DLA and Transcom, Heise said. Lockheed expects a request for proposals on the project to go out before the end of the year.

Surface Deployment and Distribution Command sent out the request for information on the proposed logistics system.

Transcom oversees a global logistics network that provides air, land and sea transport to DOD operations. The command controls a fleet of military transportation assets valued at more than $52 billion, DOD said.

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance journalist based in the Washington area.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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