Maryland lands DOD logistics demo

The military’s sense-and-respond logistics concept is closer to becoming reality.

The University of Maryland announced Nov. 29 that it received a $2.9 million grant from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to build a prototype, Web-based logistics system that senses when military equipment needs repairs and responds by ordering the parts. The system will also allow logisticians to instantaneously know where repair parts are in the supply chain, from the warehouse to the battlefield.

The aim is to get repairable military equipment into the battle sooner at less cost. The university also wants to show that it can improve the performance of the military’s logistics system by spending less, said Jacques Gansler, former undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics during the Clinton administration. He now directs the university’s Center for Public Policy and Private Enterprise.

“This is an unprecedented experiment, and it’s critical for the military to move in this direction,” Gansler said.

He said that the military’s logistics budget during the past three years has grown from $80 billion to $126 billion. He questioned whether the increase in logistics spending has improved supply ordering and delivery.

The center and the A. James Clark School of Engineering will work with the Navy on the 12-month project. The demonstration will involve the maintenance of F/A-18 Navy fighter jets.

The prototype, Web-based logistics system will link together sensors, Global Positioning System satellites and radio frequency identification technologies. It will also rely on secure, wireless communications and a secure Web portal, said Kenneth Gabriel, senior research scholar at the center who will serve as the project’s engineer and policy expert and principal investigator.

“We hope eventually to have a system where an airborne jet can signal the aircraft carrier with an indication of what the problem is so the parts can be located and ordered even before the plane has touched down,” Gabriel said.

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