General to Materiel Command: Be more like Land's End

Gen. Paul Kern, commander of the Army Materiel Command

Henrik G. de Gyor

HERSHEY, Pa.--Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, has issued the Materiel Command a challenge: Let soldiers order their desert camouflage uniforms just like they'd place an order for a parka online with the Land's End clothing company.

Gen. Paul Kern, commander of the Army Materiel Command, announced the chief of staff's challenge yesterday at the Industry Advisory Council's Executive Leadership Conference 2003.

'We need to focus on Web-based systems for placing requisition orders and tracking the fulfillment process, transportation and delivery in the theater,' Kern said. 'Requisitions need to be visible to everybody in the system.'

The Materiel Command's chief said that industry would play a crucial role in helping the command integrate its logistics function into the Defense Department's Global Information Grid, a departmentwide network backbone

'We have been talking about building a more rapidly deployable and more efficient force for the last 50 years. The only way we can do that is with IT. It is critical to our success in building this network,' Kern said. 'The challenge now is to make [the network] work for everyone and with high assurance that it will be there when you need it on the battlefield.'

Through GIG, Defense for the first time will weave logistics functions in with other information capabilities. 'In the past we would have built a [separate] logistics network,' he said.

The war in Iraq has helped clarify some to the problems. For instance, network communications weren't always available to Army logistics staff sending supplies from Kuwait into Iraq, Kern said.

At Arifjohn, the primary U.S. base in Kuwait for deploying forces into Iraq, thousands of containers arrived each day during conflict in Iraq. The containers had radio frequency identification tags that identified what was in each pallet, but Army staff still had trouble finding what they needed, Kern said.

'We had organizations looking through containers for 21 days, not able to communicate back [to headquarters] what they were looking for,' he said. Then, thousands of pieces of equipment and supplies sent into Iraq never made it to the right destinations.

'Communications depended on land-based, line-of-sight communications that couldn't keep up with the speed of people in the theater. Many parts never made it north because of lack of communication,' Kern said.


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