- By Dawn S. Onley
- Apr 26, 2005
'Mr. Logistics' is leading the Army's charge toward a single supply-chain system
Col. David Coker, Army
The Army has 16 stubborn logistics systems that don't speak to each other. They each have different software baselines and operate on dissimilar hardware platforms.
Col. David Coker, the program manager for the Army's logistics information systems, doesn't want them to get along. He wants them to go away.
It is Coker's job to both maintain and modernize the 16 systems currently operating in Iraq and Afghanistan while also working to develop the Web-based Global Combat Support System-Army that will replace them. Starting in 2007, GCSS-Army will be fielded to 134,000 supply sergeants, commanders and maintenance personnel.All in one
The integrated system, using software from SAP America Inc. of Newtown Square, Pa., will maintain all of the Army's logistics information in one location. It will eventually replace the 16 disparate systems that keep track of everything from parts to maintenance management.
'It's updated and near-real time, and you don't have to log in the same part number on different screens,' Coker explained. 'It reduces a lot of duplication of orders.
'Currently, you have all of these different systems that have different software that don't necessarily talk to each other. You have different training, different levels of expertise found in different organizational structures. What you don't have right now is an integrated clear picture of everything so it really provides a capability that has not been there before.'
Part of the management challenge is keeping the existing systems running while developing the deploying the new one.
'It's a change-management transformation kind of thing as well as a replacement,' said Kevin Carroll, the Army's program executive officer for enterprise information systems.
'We're really trying to transform the way we do logistics business at the tactical level and at the unit level and installation level, and move us toward commercial best practices for logistics,' Carroll added. 'It will cut down all the interfaces that we do and all the complexity we have will be reduced by putting out this common solution.'
None of that makes Coker's job easy, but he takes it all in stride, said his boss, Carroll.
'He's got one of the most difficult jobs. He has the ability to build consensus among a very complex customer base and he's able to bring it all together in order to keep his programs on time and on schedule,' Carroll said.
Asked to define the key to becoming a successful leader, Coker said it's a combination of working with inspiring people, having military schooling and ensuring that people under him succeed.
'I've been very fortunate to have some outstanding role models and outstanding peers who have worked for me,' Coker said. 'In 25 years with the Army, I have not had an experience that I have not enjoyed.'
Furthermore, Coker said, his preference for promoting talent from within has paid off.
'It gives me greater satisfaction as a leader to see my folks succeed,' he said. 'Taking care of your folks is key.'
One such person, Lt. Col. James Bass, the Army's Movement Tracking System product manager, said what he appreciates most about Coker is that he leads by example.
'He doesn't ask anything of me or anyone else that he wouldn't be willing to do himself,' Bass said in the nominating letter. 'He has served his time and has dirtied his own hands. He's not just a leader in theory'he's a leader in practice.'
Of course, the bottom line of leadership is results, and Coker has delivered. 'He is Mr. Logistics from a program management perspective,' Carroll said. 'He really has made major gains.'
The GCSS-Army program, valued at $1.6 billion over the lifecycle of the contract, has two components, Coker said. GCSS-Army Field Tactical will replace the 16 baseline systems and the system integrator is Northrop Grumman Corp. The second component of GCSS-Army is for product lifecycle management, which provides data management, tracking of lifecycle management of repair parts and equipment and an interface to the Army's Logistics Modernization Program.
Under a $199 million blanket-purchasing agreement, Computer Sciences Corp. will develop a logistics environment that weds the Army's field logistics system and its national logistics system.