Logistics present DOD another year 2000 challenge

LONG BEACH, Calif.—The Defense Department is in the throes of a logistical
revolution to deploy troops and materiel faster, a panel of Defense experts at the 21st
Century Commerce 1998 exposition said last month.


“One of the most critical challenges we face is reinventing logistics for the
[next] century,” said Lou Kratz, director of logistics systems re-engineering in the
Office of the Secretary of Defense.


“We need the agility to insert [a force] in 24 hours and sustain it within seven
days and go to full capacity in 75 days, compared with our best time of 240 days in the
Persian Gulf,” he said.


Kratz said DOD must reduce average supply time from 36 days to five days.


“The challenge is not the items we stock, but the out-of-stock items, which take
about a year” to get to the field, he said.


The military distribution network now processes 2 billion transactions per year through
a network of 457 existing information systems, Kratz said.


DOD’s current logistical costs run $82.2 billion per year, and the $4 billion in
information technology costs for materiel management equals only one wing of aircraft per
year, he said.


Echoing Kratz’s call for massive logistics changes, Maj. Gen. Norman E. Williams,
chief of staff at the Army Materiel Command, said he would have preferred to appear in
battle-dress uniform and a flak jacket, in keeping with his theme.


“We are in a fight, and part of the fight is breaking the paradigms” of
existing logistics systems, Williams said.


Driving the revolution, he said, are the Army’s Force XXI and Army After Next
initiatives, as well as a 300 percent increase in mission commitments between 1989 and
1996.


“We have a slow, cumbersome acquisition process,” Williams said.


He described a clerk who ordered three bolts but received a shipment of one box
containing 500. The clerk returned the extra bolts via the supply chain, which imposed
extra shipping and administrative costs at each turn.


It would have been more cost-effective to throw away the excess bolts, Williams said,
but that would have required a change in military thinking, regulations and possibly law.


“We control the regulations, so why can’t we change them?” Williams
asked. He said AMC has managed to reduce its total parts inventory from $12 billion to $7
billion by getting rid of things it doesn’t need anymore.


A logistical automation system for the future, he said, requires “a networked
system with satellite capability. Logistics has to be agile and predictive. We have to
know what they need before they need it.”


Williams said users can study the history and details of the Army’s logistics
revolution at several Web sites: http://www.hqda.army.mil/logweb,
  http://www.lia.army.milhttp://www.amc.army.mil  and http://www.cascom.army.mil.


After the presentation, Williams said that year 2000 remediation efforts at his command
had caused some slippage in logistics automation re-engineering, but the slippage is
easing as code rewriting reaches completion. “We are now in the testing phase,”
he said.


Marine Corps Col. Philip N. Yff, a member of the Joint Chief of Staff’s logistics
team, said the two key elements to logistics re-engineering are standardizing data
collection at the point of interaction and overlaying new applications on top of standard
databases.


“It’s very important when we design our systems that we separate the process
from the information used so the process can be refined later,” Yff said.


The old way of designing overarching systems to handle a variety of functions is no
good anymore, he said, because such systems have become boat anchors that hold back
forward movement.   

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