Desert battlefield prompts changes

Capt. Linda Lewandowski

Henrik G. de Gyor

DOD will test sensor tools for tracking war supplies

To capitalize quickly on what it has learned about its logistics systems during the Iraq war, the Defense Department next year plans to test a network of sensors to track the movement of supplies on the battlefield.

As soldiers advanced through deserts and populated areas on the way to take Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom, a nagging problem emerged: The logistics line struggled to keep up, resulting in supply shortages on the front line.

'The logistics train supplying critical fuel, ammunition and food to frontline forces would stretch hundreds of miles,' noted a recent study by Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego.

At times it stretched near the breaking point, a crisis the Office of Force Transformation is working to prevent in future conflicts.

The office, along with lead contractor Synergy Corp. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is developing the Sense and Respond Logistics Concept, a framework that will involve sophisticated IT networks, sensors, automatic demand signals and policy changes.

The developers will field a prototype information system to support the rapidly changing logistics environment, which officials called adaptive logistics.

DOD plans to test the information system during military exercises next year, said Navy Capt. Linda Lewandowski, a DOD transformation strategist.

Under the two-year, roughly $2 million contract the office has with Synergy, the company will build the prototype using an Oracle Corp. database and middleware and portal technology from Tibco Software Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif. The system will run Microsoft Windows XP and Unix, said Don Zimmerman, chief executive officer of Synergy.

'This is the next area of competitive advantage,' Lewandowski said. 'The best supply chain is ... one that is highly flexible. We've inextricably linked logistics with operations.'

The Sense and Respond Logistics Concept puts an emphasis on adapting technologies to speed up the logistics cycle and to share situational awareness using IT to accommodate the uncertainties and pace of war.

'Logistics are vital to the success of a military undertaking. It's one of the six great elements of combat,' said retired Navy Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski, director of force transformation.

Military logistics efforts must focus on demand and output rather than supply and input, he said.
'We knew that something fundamentally had to change,' Cebrowski added. 'The sense and respond logistics project is all about figuring out what you can do about it.'


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