General calls for logistics architecture

The military needs an architecture and common computer protocols to solve the many problems servicemen and woman had delivering clothing, ammunition, water, food and parts to troops during last year's invasion of Iraq, a top logistics general testified to Congress this week.

The services do not require new supply systems -- just connections among existing ones, said Lt. Gen. Claude Christianson, the Army's deputy chief of staff for logistics, during a March 30 hearing of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee.

Defense Department officials must define the logistics architecture and install technologies used in industry to track supplies from the time they are ordered to delivery, Christianson said.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense is developing such an architecture, said Gary Jones, acting assistant deputy undersecretary of Defense, logistics systems management. It will let the services and the Defense Logistics Agency manage logistics implementation and tie them together using the Enterprise Integrated Data Environment, a framework that will give military users a common interface to understand and exchange logistics information across the services, Jones said. Logisticians in the Middle East could not get enough bandwidth to buy materiel online, and fast-moving troops did not always receive the goods because they had moved on from the place where they ordered them, Christianson said, noting that this created the biggest logistical problem.

To help solve the problem, Army officials shifted $165 million in the logistics budget last fall to buy commercial satellite communications so that troops entering Iraq this spring and summer can more quickly order and receive supplies, Christianson said.

One result is the Army's new Combat Service Support-SATCOM system, which provides bandwidth and ease of order and delivery for logisticians and medical personnel.

The $50,000 system comes in two boxes and can be assembled in 15 to 30 minutes. It consists of a ruggedized notebook computer and satellite dish called a Very Small Aperture Satellite Terminal, said Lt. Col. Earl Noble, product manager for the service's Defense Wide Transmission Systems program, located at Fort Monmouth, N.J.

This spring and summer, the Ft. Stewart, Ga.-based 3rd Infantry Division will train with the system before it deploys to Iraq. A year ago, the infantry and 1st Marine Division spearheaded the invasion of Iraq.

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