Keeping DOD on the right track
- By George I. Seffers
- Aug 07, 2000
The Pentagon's Automatic Identification Technology (AIT) is an overarching
initiative designed to ensure that all the services field interoperable
The AIT's multimillion-dollar suite of data storage technologies includes:
* Satellite tracking.
* Linear and 2-D bar codes, which are similar to their linear cousins except
that they contain about 1,000 characters of information in a two-inch space
instead of 30 characters.
* Radio frequency tags. These can be attached to shipments, and as the shipment
comes into the vicinity of sensors along the supply route, the tags register
the shipment's location.
* Optimal memory cards. These work a lot like CD-ROMs and store large amounts
of data about the equipment being shipped. An optimal memory data card can
be moved along with a shipment package to describe its contents. In previous
conflicts, troops have had to determine the contents of individual crates
by opening each one — 40,000 during the course of Desert Storm, according
to SRA International Inc., which has been tasked with advising the Pentagon
on AIT implementation.
In 1998, the Pentagon provided $15 million for a European-based prototype
that outfitted 70 different supply and transportation nodes and logistics
facilities to test shipments by air and sea, a unit move, and an ammunition
shipment. An additional $20 million performed the same analysis in the Pacific,
completed this year.
This year, the Defense Department is focusing on Central Command in the
Persian Gulf and Southern Command in the Caribbean and South America, the
final puzzle piece of a worldwide AIT architecture for all the services.
In addition to using AIT for tracking the Colombian aid package, Defense
Department is expanding its use beyond supply and deployment, the initial
focus areas, to include acquisition, maintenance, and so-called re-utilization,
military terminology for selling off or otherwise eliminating used equipment
from the inventory.
"We think AIT is going to really enhance our supply-chain management, making
us more effective and efficient," said Ed Coyle, director of the Defense
Logistics Agency's AIT office. "We are currently turning our focus toward
acquisition, maintenance and [re-utilization]. We're working with the services
in building standards to get some type of automated mark on everything we
buy. It doesn't matter if it is a reparable or consumable product. We want
to ensure we can track items as they are consumed or sent back for repair."
Coyle declined to comment on the Colombian aid package and whether AIT might
be used to track it.
According to a fact sheet provided by the Bureau of International Narcotics
and Law Enforcement, the controversial $1.3 billion aid package to help
Colombia fight the war on drugs included:
* Sixteen UH-60 Blackhawk and 30 UH-1H Huey II utility helicopters and support
for 15 UH-1N helicopters.
* Sixty-eight million dollars for upgrading radar, U.S. Customs service
P3 early warning interdiction aircraft and airfield upgrades and improved
* One million dollars to support the Columbian Navy's counternarcotics intelligence
Although President Clinton signed the bill July 13, he expressed concern
with the funding levels for the information technology portions of the package.
"The $1.3 billion provided underscores our commitment to support the fight
against drug traffickers and benefits the United States by bringing greater
peace and prosperity to an important American ally," Clinton said in a written
statement announcing passage of the bill. "Nonetheless, I am concerned
that certain provisions of the bill will limit the effectiveness of our
assistance. Key initiatives, such as ground-based radar, secure field communications
and force protection are funded at levels below my request."