Navy eases shipboard purchasing

The Navy Supply Systems Command has upgraded its standard logistics software and communications program to enable deployed ships to electronically sign government credit card invoices, allowing those ships to avoid paying interest on late payments.

This upgrade to the Navy's Standard Automated Logistics Toolset System should save the Navy $275,000 in late payment charges on government credit cards in 1999 and a projected $1.3 million in fiscal 2000, according to Lt. Cmdr. Michael Kirk, the SALTS commander.

Kirk said deployed ships historically have had a difficult time keeping current with government credit card bills because of the lag in delivery of surface mail to ships homeported in places such as Norfolk, Va., but operating in places such as the Persian Gulf. The new SALTS module, Kirk said, "will allow the ships to certify - electronically sign - their invoices anywhere they are floating around" and send them to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service for payment.

Besides providing deployed forces with easy-to-use logistics management software, SALTS also has a built-in communications system that allows even the smallest of ships to send and receive a variety of files, including unclassified e-mail.

The original DOS-based version of SALTS was developed during the Persian Gulf War as a means to allow ships to transmit logistics data through nontactical systems - primarily dial-up circuits provided through satellites operated by Inmarsat.

Lt. Cmdr. Dave Meyers, who works on SALTS, said that in the past, late payments - and the commensurate interest penalties - quickly added up because of the slow delivery of "snail mail." The Navy has had cumulative credit card delinquencies of $50 million because "it would take weeks for the bills to catch up to the ships," Meyers said.

He said the new SALTS electronic certification process would help government credit card users avoid penalties for late payments and may even let them take advantage of credits, such as the 2 percent credit users can receive by making a payment within 10 days.

Eben Townes, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc., said the SALTS team deserves "kudos" for the electronic certification development, adding that "it's unbelievable that a high-technology system [such as credit card payments] relied on mail."

The latest SALTS release, 4.08, includes a module to handle what the Navy calls "carcass tracking" of large repairable items, such as a piece of radar equipment on an airplane.

This addition to the SALTS software - which users can easily download and install without outside tech support - enables Navy Inventory Control Points to track repairable items more easily, Meyers said.

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