Joint chiefs make Web technology a logistics focus

Joint chiefs make Web technology a logistics focus

GCSS isn't a ground-up system, Army Lt. Gen. John McDuffie says.

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

Armed services officials can dramatically improve their logistics systems' performance by using Web technology, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff's logistics director. He cited the Global Combat Support System as an important component of Defense Department logistics overhaul.

'We haven't made enough of a leap in the command and control of our logistics assets' compared with DOD's improvement in other logistics functions, such as strategic airlift and sealift capabilities, said Army Lt. Gen. John M. 'Mike' McDuffie. Under Joint Vision 2020, DOD logistics systems must have Web-enabled total asset visibility by fiscal 2004.

'We've got to be [working] arm in arm' with the Joint Chiefs director of command, control, communications and computers'Air Force Lt. Gen. John 'Jack' Woodward'in using public-key infrastructure and other technology, McDuffie said.

Far too many DOD logistics systems still function in the batch process and sequential environment, he said.

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'In the 1960s, the Defense Department was a world-class environment in using computers,' he said. DOD organizations have been 'a bit slower than industry' in deploying Web technology, in part because DOD officials have to adopt more conservative systems policies, he said.

McDuffie, who launched a Joint Chiefs functional requirements office for the Global Combat Support System a year ago to help DOD services meet data standards and coordinate their efforts, sees GCSS as the umbrella for change. When DOD officials first developed GCSS, they didn't envision its use as a Web-based application, he said.

'It's not a ground-up system,' McDuffie said. 'GCSS is an environment, a system of systems that you will go into if you have a password,' and users can enter Global Transportation, Joint Total Asset Visibility and other applications by pointing and clicking, he said.

Each service has developed its own version of GCSS that is supposed to interoperate by using the basic GCSS kernel developed by the Defense Information Systems Agency.

'We don't expect each service to have the same program,' McDuffie said.

'The last thing we want to do is eliminate their innovation and initiative,' he said. What DISA and Joint Chiefs officials are telling the services is that 'here are a set of standards for horizontal integration and interoperability,' so joint commanders can view the data, he said.

Although McDuffie says he does not believe logistics can win wars, he does not downplay its importance on its own. 'We're not talking about a business having a bad quarter. We're talking about winning the nation's wars,' he said.

The Web can give DOD real-time logistics capabilities and better accuracy than the current means that commanders use'the phone and messaging'he said. McDuffie also likes Web systems because 'they probably require less bandwidth' than batch-oriented systems, which are more prone to bandwidth surges when they send or receive data. Web systems require 'continuous bandwidth with a query system' that's easier to predict and allocate, he said.

Although Web systems by 2004 seem like a dream, McDuffie said DOD's logistics systems' performance has improved since Desert Storm and Desert Shield, when some ordering clerks had to order a part three or four times before receiving it.

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