TRANSCOM consolidating logistics systems

The Defense Department currently is developing a backbone information system capable of planning, tracking, tracing and optimizing shipments from manufacturers to their point of delivery.

The deployment of such a system is a major goal of Gen. Norton Schwartz, commander of the Transportation Command, who spoke yesterday at the Defense Logistics 2006 conference in Washington.

The result will be to consolidate hundreds of transportation and distribution systems currently in use and integrate key technologies, creating a single, end-to-end transportation management system.

'There are over 300 distribution-related systems in use by the military, and there is lots of overlap,' Schwartz said. 'The conventional wisdom that says ... 90 percent of the systems are unique is wrong. Probably 90 percent are common, and what we then have to do is to work to drive that number down by applying good common sense.'

TRANSCOM and the Joint Forces Command, as well as the Defense Information Systems Agency, under the umbrella of an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration called Agile Transportation for the 21st Century, are spearheading the integration effort.

AT21's mission is to identify transportation planning and management systems, including database, optimization and collaboration technologies, and integrate those into the Defense Transportation System. One major focus will be the deployment of a mode optimization tool, which will promote cargo shipment decisions based on objective delivery and cost criteria rather than customer specification.

TRANSCOM spends $9.5 billion annually transporting passengers and cargo.

Schwartz said he recently visited a logistics station in Iraq being used by both the Army and Air Force.

'But each was using a totally different piece of software,' he added. 'What we are going to do is to take things we know that work and [converge] them in a smart way. We're not going to be creating any grand solutions.'

Schwartz described the convergence process as 'connecting the dots.'

'We need open architectures and standard data for data integration, quality and transportability,' he explained. 'We don't want proprietary systems or temporary glueware to connect ordinarily incompatible systems. If there happens to be government code in one service that can provide functionality to another service but with a smaller investment, that is how we should proceed.'

He added, 'The Army might not know what the Air Force has, but if we take a horizontal view we can take that insight and apply it to a good outcome.'

About the Author

Peter Buxbaum is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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