Transcom chief touts IT

Information technology helps the Defense Department track personnel and products with unprecedented visibility and is as important to the warfighter as other essential equipment, according to the commander of the U.S. Transportation Command (Transcom).

"Information technology is as central to our mission as the planes, trains, trucks, and ships that support our warfighters every day around the globe," said Air Force Gen. John Handy, Transcom commander. "If information doesn't move, we don't move. We simply would not be able to support the warfighter."

Speaking earlier this month at the AFCEA International Inc.'s InfoTech 2002 conference in Dayton, Ohio, Handy said Transcom is implementing the concepts of network-centric warfare, which seeks to make data available to those who need it across the organization or on the battlefield.

The ability to pass the most recent threat information or to change a destination while en route requires "flexible, adaptable systems and processes focused on warfighter," capable of tracking personnel and products from the fort — or factory — to the foxhole, Handy said.

To help achieve that goal, Transcom manages the Defense Department's main asset tracker, the Global Transportation Network 21 (GTN 21), which wraps the logistics systems of the services and defense agencies — along with commercial carrier information — into one integrated database.

The Air Force last month awarded Northrop Grumman IT a $63.8 million contract to design new software for GTN 21, upgrade the existing system architecture and provide support for the upgrade.

"The IT emphasis in the Department of Defense today is on seamless end-to-end integration," Handy said. Transcom's "vision and challenge is to develop the capability to track an item from the shelf on which it's located in a DOD depot, commercial vendor, or military location to the delivery of that item to the end user."

The speed of planes, trains, trucks and ships "is fixed by physical limitations," but the speed at which information flows can be increased, which "dramatically reduces the time it takes to get forces underway, redirect, and ultimately into the fight," he said.

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