Air Force set to overhaul logistics

The Air Force recently awarded a contract worth a potential $127 million to rebuild its automated logistics system, but the real work will not begin for another year.

The Air Force Standard Systems Group awarded Keane Federal Systems, McLean, Va., an $87 million contract in early August to build a Web-based ordering and inventory management system known as the Integrated Logistics System-Supply.

ILS-S will replace the service's 30-year-old Standard Base Supply System. It will be used for purchasing materials ranging from office supplies to weapon systems and will serve about 20,000 people at nearly 300 Air Force locations.

Rather than attempting to replace the entire system at once, the Air Force logistics system will be rebuilt a piece at a time. The first year of the 10-year indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract will be spent largely in the planning stages, deciding which components to replace first. Under this approach, new functions, such as automated requisitions or bill paying, will be brought online individually. At the same time, the corresponding function of the existing Standard Base Supply System will be switched off.

"We spent the last year trying to figure out how to make [this] work," said Lt. Col. Jon Dittmer, ILS-S program manager. "We sat down with industry and the Software Engineering Institute just to make sure it made sense from a pure software engineering concept.

"We're looking at a formal review with [the Pentagon] next summer to allow us to proceed with full-scale development. That starts the process of building components of functionality and fielding that in the system. Over time, we'll keep building those components until no functionality is left in the [existing] system."

ILS-S will be one of more than 600 programs that will use the Air Force version of the Global Command Support System integration framework. Global Command Support System-Air Force is an umbrella program developed and fielded to facilitate integration of combat support systems. The approach allows the application programs to focus on core customer functions rather than common services, such as security, which are addressed by the integration framework, Dittmer explained.

ILS-S data will be made available to the Pentagon's Joint Total Asset Visibility program, officials said.

Rebuilding a decades-old supply system presents a technical challenge, said Sumeet Shrivastava, Keane Federal's managing director. The original architecture was written in Cobol computer language and has "a few other Band-Aids in other languages," but ILS-S will use the Java language developed by Sun Microsystems Inc.

"It's a technical challenge, but one of the discriminators of Keane is that we have been doing this on the commercial side for a few years," Shrivastava said.

In fact, the contract marks a new niche for Keane in the military market.

"Actually, in terms of size, this is one of the largest programs we have with the military," Shrivastava said.

He added that the company has no boundaries between the federal and commercial sectors and was, therefore, able to borrow extensively from the company's commercial sector. In fact, some personnel who normally operate in the commercial sector will move to Huntsville, Ala., to support the contract.

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