Military releases RFID policy

The Defense Department this week announced it has released a policy to regulate the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and mandate its widespread use in a little over a year.

RFID hardware, software and services enabled vast improvements in the Army's tracking of cargo and vehicles since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, although the service relies on satellite tags for critical payloads entering remote, hostile areas.

Now radio frequency technology has made possible so-called "just-in-time" logistics, in which containers get electronic tags that can be read like bar codes using a handheld device or an automated scanning system. Containers can be scanned at various points in transit, with the information captured in an online database so logistics experts worldwide can track the progress of supplies they ordered. Defense officials refer to this as total asset visibility.

"Implementation of RFID minimizes time spent through the normal means of inventory processing," reads a DOD statement issued this morning. "This technology allows the improvement of data quality, items management, asset visibility and maintenance of materiel."

The new policy requires suppliers to put passive RFID tags on each individual part, case or pallet packaging by January 2005. Acknowledging the impact on military suppliers, department officials plan to host an RFID Summit for Industry in February of next year. The policy and implementation strategy will be finalized by June.

RFID policy and the corresponding tagging and labeling of materiel apply to all items except bulk commodities such as sand, gravel or liquids.

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