Official: Inefficient systems hinder commanders

Inefficient, stand-alone Defense Department information systems deployed in Iraq deprive combat commanders of the integrated information they need to do their job, a top official told the Military Health Systems conference here yesterday.

Army Lt. Gen. John Vines, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps, which returned from Iraq in January, said inefficient information systems frustrate commanders because they cannot aggregate, chart or search essential information.

Although top Pentagon officials have hailed the use of Total Asset Visibility (TAV) logistics systems to track equipment and supplies since the start of the Iraq war, Vines said, his experience in the field shows such systems don’t give commanders enough information about equipment and supplies.

Vines said he asked his staff to use a TAV system to inventory the 18th Airborne twice within a 10-day period with startling results. The second inventory produced $14 billion more in assets than the first, Vines said.

Those results led him to conclude that “if someone tells you they have total asset visibility, they’re lying,” he said.

Vines said he had access to a lot of information in Iraq, but combat commanders still “don’t have access to information in a usable form.”

Supporting arms units, such as artillery, cannot easily take information on enemy and friendly troop dispositions and overlay it on their databases, Vines added.

He has a solution to the lack of integrated information available to combat commanders on the battlefield. “Don’t let [development] of stovepiped systems happen.”

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