Military items get universal IDs

Defense Department Unique Identification Web site

The Defense Department this week unveiled a policy to identify items DOD officials purchase. Unique Identification (UID) will track tangible items from purchase to disposal.

Marking physical items, such as spare parts or supplies, with a Universal Product Code that stays with them permanently is supposed to help the department keep better records for finances and logistics.

Michael Wynne, acting undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, announced the new policy July 29. He established several teams during the past several months to accelerate the program and make sure it is in place by the end of this month.

The system relies on commercial tracking standards, rather than forcing DOD to develop its own technology.

According to a July 11 memo, Defense officials haven't been able to properly track material shipped between contractors and the department. As a result, the armed services sometimes lack spare parts and can't adequately report or get reimbursement for defective components.

Parts for new weapons systems, including major modifications, will be the first items to get UIDs, starting in the next several weeks.

UIDs fit with DOD's foray into radio frequency identification, which allows items to be tagged with transmitters so they can be tracked as they are deployed to the field. The transmitters played a big role this year in supplying troops in Iraq, a process that created problems during the first Gulf War.

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