Army connects logistics

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Army acquisition officials delivered 40 so-called very small-aperture terminals and supporting equipment earlier this month to the Third Infantry Division to improve the unit's logistics when it returns to Iraq later this year.

The fielding of the mini satellite dishes highlights the Army's multimillion-dollar Connecting the Logistician program, which is meant to improve ordering and tracking of supplies in combat — a problem experienced during last year's invasion of Iraq. "The way we're attacking it is to put logisticians in a network," said Lt. Gen. Claude Christianson, deputy chief of staff for logistics, in an interview this summer with Federal Computer Week. He is scheduled to speak today on the subject at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference in Washington.

Before the Iraqi conflict, orders for spare parts from combat units averaged 15,000 to 20,000 per day, the Army's top logistics officer said. But after U.S. and coalition forces attacked, orders for spares went down to almost zero and stayed there for 30 days, he said.

"It makes no sense that when you're in the middle of a war driving your way to Baghdad over this very, very complex battlefield that you wouldn't have any requirements for spare parts," Christianson said. The three-star general said the Army's logistics problems stemmed from logisticians not receiving supply orders. He believes the new Combat Service Support Satellite Communications (CSS-Satcom) system will fix them.

CSS-Satcom consists of a mini satellite dish, a ruggedized notebook computer and supporting equipment that comes in four transit cases. The system uses hardware, software and wireless communications so logistics soldiers can order and track supplies within seconds, use text messaging and conference. And it enhances their safety because they no longer need to risk an enemy attack by traveling in vehicles to deliver supply orders and attend logistics meetings, according to an Oct. 19 release from the Army's Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems.

Third Infantry Division soldiers trained on CSS-Satcom in May and June at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif. It's "a beast, a combat multiplier," said Chief Warrant Officer-2 Angel Montero, a technician in the Combat Service Support Automation Management Office of the Third Infantry Division, in the report.

Army acquisition officials completed the CSS-Satcom delivery Oct. 8 to Third Infantry Division soldiers. They continued the Connecting the Logistician program by fielding systems Oct. 6 to 101st Airborne Division soldiers, who are scheduled to get 32 systems by January 2005, and Oct. 13 to 10th Mountain Division troops, who expect to get 24 by July 2005.

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