Finally, a DOD rule on RFID

Eleven months after the original deadline, the Defense Department today published its proposed regulations requiring its suppliers to identify shipments with passive radio frequency identification tags.

Suppliers and other interested parties have until June 30 to comment on the proposed Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations Supplement covering the use of RFID published today in the Federal Register, almost a year past the originally planned date.

Alan Estevez, assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for supply chain integration, said in a March 2004 speech that he expected publication of the proposed DFARS last May and the final rule effective in 2004, with RFID in use for some supplies this January.

While the Pentagon plans to require all of its suppliers to use passive RFID tags by 2007, the proposed regulation published today covers only a narrow class of materiel: packaged field rations such as Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), clothing and individual equipment, tools, tents and repair parts.

In its request for industry comments on the rule, DOD signaled concern for the regulation's effect small businesses. The RFI asking, “whether small business considerations have been fully addressed in the regulator, flexibility analysis.” DOD also wants comments from industry on the impact the proposed DFARS will have on suppliers' ability to provide electronic advance notice shipment information.

When the regulations go into effect, they would cover only new contracts (or modifications to existing contracts) for these supplies delivered on cases or pallets delivered to military depots in Susquehanna, Pa., and San Joaquin, Calif.

Larry Loiacono, an IT specialist at the Defense Logistics Agency’s Defense Distribution Center in New Cumberland, Pa., said information systems in Susquehanna and San Joaquin have been testing RFID systems since early this year. Four warehouse doors in Susquehanna and five doors in San Joaquin have been equipped with RFID readers from Symbol Technologies.

The reader use a short-range radio signal to interrogate shipping information stored in the passive tags affixed to pallets and cases. Once read, Loiacono said that information is then transmitted over a local area network into a warehouse network hub, and then into DOD logistics information systems.

DOD has grand plans to use RFID technology to revolutionize its logistics operations, with the tags and readers sitting at the core of systems which will automate payments to vendors and insure electronic tracking of every item as it moves through global supply chain.

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