Military poised for RFID

The Defense Department's new radio-frequency identification (RFID) policy requires the use of passive tags on all materiel purchased after Oct. 1 and delivered after Jan. 1, 2005.

"The policy finalizes the business rules for the use of high data capacity active RFID and finalizes the business rules for the implementation of passive RFID and the use of Electronic Product Code interoperable tags and equipment with the DOD supply chain," said Michael Wynne, acting undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, logistics and technology, in a July 30 memorandum.

Military officials prefer to use passive RFID tags because of their cost. Active RFID tags, which cost about $100, use batteries, stay on all the time and require a scanning device to determine a container's contents. Passive RFID tags, which cost from 40 cents to $10, stay dormant until scanned.

The Army installed 500 active RFID tags on vehicles and containers during last year's invasion of Iraq. The Army and the Air Force installed 165 active tags on containers shipped from Germany to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

The new RFID policy requires the use of active tags on containers from a company's facility to a military warehouse to delivery via air, ground or sea to troops outside the United States. The Defense Logistics Agency's automated wholesale management system will issue the tags, and the department's Logistics Automatic Identification Technology Office will coordinate, establish and maintain them, the policy said.

DOD officials will use passive RFID tags next year on cargo containers holding food, clothing, hygienics and parts from two distribution sites in Pennsylvania and California. They also will use passive tags in 2006 on containers holding ammunition, construction materials, pharmaceuticals and petroleum products from 32 shipping locations, the policy states.

The office also will coordinate the use of the tags. The Army's Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems will oversee procurement of the devices and establish a contracting mechanism, the policy states.

RFID technology provides operational and cost benefits for the government and industry because it tells personnel the location and status of materiel. "RFID creates a real-time enterprise," said Jack Pellicci, Oracle Corp.'s group vice president of business development in the company's Government, Education, Health and Aerospace/Defense division. The retired Army general led a panel of speakers earlier this year on sensor-based computing at the E-gov 2004 Government Solutions Forum.

To coordinate the use of RFID technology governmentwide, officials at DOD and civilian agencies will meet this summer to achieve a consistent plan, said Alan Estevez, assistant deputy undersecretary of Defense for supply chain integration, also earlier this year.

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