U.S. Transportation Command uses Web as a gateway to logistics data

A Web-based logistics system developed by the U.S. Transportation Command has only been
in operation for a year, but it has already changed the way the Defense Department tracks
and moves troops, equipment and supplies around the world.

The Global Transportation Network, headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.,
integrates command and control, transportation and logistics data so commanders can track
the identity, status and location of cargo and passengers. The network also gives
commanders airlift, air refueling and sealift schedules to coordinate the movement of
personnel and materiel.

GTN collects data from more than a dozen transportation systems run by the services and
Defense Logistics Agency and combines it into a single 60G database that supports 5,000
users worldwide.

GTN will link to more than 20 commercial data systems, including Federal Express Corp.
of Memphis, Tenn., and CSX Corp. of Richmond, Va., and other companies that ship cargo for
DOD. Commercial carriers provide more than half of DOD’s strategic airlift

“It is a short leap from seeing what’s coming and when it will arrive to
using this knowledge to be ready to receive it, plan for its onward movement and
integration into the force,” said Lt. Gen. Roger Thompson, USTRANSCOM deputy
commander. He described the system improvements at the recent Military Traffic Management
Command Commanders’ Conference in San Antonio.

GTN is so efficient, Thompson said, “trucks and buses arrive on ramp as the plane
hits the runway … and unit equipment drivers arrive on the pier as the rolling stock
comes down ship ramps.”

GTN users can run simple queries of the database anywhere in the world through a secure
Web site that provides up-to-the-minute data about shipment locations and delivery times.
The system currently processes more than 1 million transactions daily, with a goal of 3
million transactions per day by 2000.

The system can also prioritize urgently needed materiel and, if necessary, divert or
re-route military supplies to the appropriate destinations—the cornerstone of
just-in-time logistics.

GTN reduces the problem of over- and under-stockpiling inventories, which occurred in
1991 during the Gulf War. To prevent such inefficiencies, the system identifies
transportation bottlenecks before they lead to supply shortages or poor use of resources.

“The importance of information management is growing,” Thompson said.
“We sense that we are transitioning from pushing GTN to having awakening customers
pulling it to move faster. The pace of that shift is accelerating.”

“GTN was envisioned as a command and control system for us, and an in-transit
visibility system for the customer,” he said. “But we are seeing—it really
bloomed during the last surge to the Gulf—a growing realization that GTN is a command
and control tool for the customer as well.”

Lt. Gen. Tommy Franks, the Joint Task Force commander in Kuwait, spoke highly of GTN
and the in-transit visibility of personnel, materiel and military forces it provided
during the buildup of forces in the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Thunder
earlier this year, Thompson said.

GTN is an invaluable source of information for commanders who plan, direct and control
logistics operations, Thompson said.

Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., has been the prime contractor for GTN since
1995, when it won the $130 million development contract for GTN. Lockheed Martin Mission
Systems of Gaithersburg, Md., developed GTN as a standards-based network built around
commercial products. The system complies with the Joint Technical Architecture, Defense
Information Infrastructure’s Common Operating Environment and DOD’s Technical
Architecture for Information Management.

Early in the program, GTN was based on a commercial logistics application called
Encompass from CSX Integrated Services Inc. of Apex, N.C., that manages the supply chain
of in-transit inventory and assets. The client application is installed on user PCs that
access an integrated database via the public switched phone network or the Defense
Information Systems Network.

But Encompass will be totally migrated out of the system by the end of this year, said
Doug Barton, Lockheed’s chief engineer for the GTN program.

“While Encompass was of great benefit in the early days of the program, we took
over the database and the client itself, which gave users access to the database. It has
been replaced by Web technology that we’ve added,” Barton said.

Lockheed Martin selected Castanet from Marimba Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., as a core
component of GTN. Castanet lets users launch and access a variety of logistics
applications from their PCs.

“Marimba allows users to subscribe to an application, moving bits and pieces of it
to a person’s box so the next time they ask to use the application, it doesn’t
have go over the Web again,” Barton said. “If changes are made on the server it
will instantaneously update the client the next time the user attempts to exercise that
application. It makes the problems of configuration management and application
distribution infinitely simpler.”

Castanet provides for secure, personalized distribution and maintenance of each GTN
application, implementing full X.509 certificate acquisition and management services for
server authentication, he said.

Barton said he sees a big role for Java in GTN. “Over the long haul, as everyone
moves to deliver to end users the local ability to manipulate data over the Web,
they’re going to need Java,” he said. “Java is a very important technology,
hence our relationship with Marimba.”   


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