Army logistics system is getting results

Challenges remain for complex supply chain project

The Army’s Logistics Modernization Program has taken a lot of heat of late, and one of its leaders is taking pains to remedy that situation.

The Government Accountability Office has repeatedly criticized the program for various reasons over the past three years. And when Col. David Coker, program manager for Army Logistics Information Systems, visited Capitol Hill recently, he said legislators were sharpening their pencils, ready to take a chunk out of his budget.

“For some reason, they thought LMP was still in the planning stage,” he said at the Military Logistics Summit 2006, an IDGA program in Vienna, Va., last month. “I had to explain to them that the system has been up and running since 2003.”

LMP captures logistics data from the Army supply system and manages a variety of logistics processes.

It replaced two legacy materiel management systems, the Commodity Command Standard and Standard Depot systems.

Coker acknowledged that the project has experienced “a huge amount of problems ... but we are working through them.”

“These are the same problems faced by other major logistics software programs,” he added.

GAO, in a series of reports, most recently in May 2006, has documented Coker’s many problems. The watchdog agency has criticized the Army’s failure to conduct performance reviews and to adequately test system requirements, its inability to assure data quality, and its failure to implement earlier GAO recommendations.

“The GAO is always looking over our shoulder,” Coker said.

LMP operates in an enormously complex environment, Coker said, pointing out that the Army’s is the world’s largest and most complex supply chain.

Laundry list

The legacy systems were actually an amalgam of more than 2,500 stovepiped programs that handled a laundry list of Army logistics functions, including ammunition management, depot maintenance, supply and inventory management, requisition processing, financial management and goods and services procurement.

“LMP integrates with over 80 other DOD systems,” Coker said, “manages $4.5 billion in inventory with 50,000 vendors, and currenty handles 1.6 million transactions daily.”

The Army opted for a phased implementation, and 12 Army installations currently use the program. When fully deployed, LMP will have 17,000 users, according to Coker; the system currently has 4,000.

The Army’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems plans to begin fielding LMP to the Army Aviation and Missile Command, a major subordinate command of the Army Materiel Command, in the spring of 2007. Army officials added that the program would be fully fielded by the third quarter of fiscal 2010, “assuming funding and approvals from both the Army and OSD are maintained.”

Perhaps the biggest problem Coker faced with LMP was user acceptance. “Folks didn’t want to make the change,” he said.

He instituted a training program in which users were rotated to familiarize themselves with different LMP processes.

Washers by the gross

Data quality issues are often the result of human error, Coker said. He related one incident in which an LMP user thought he was ordering 144 washers, when in fact he ordered 144 gross.

“They arrived by the truckload,” he said. “A lot of the problems are attributable to operator error.”

Compliance with the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act and with DOD’s Business Enterprise Architecture requirements has also been a problem.

Coker’s reaction was to discard 1,500 requirements that were not applicable to LMP, while concentrating on the 757 that were. He acknowledged that LMP has been challenged in keeping up with changing requirements but asserted that project leaders now have a plan to address new ones.

Coker defended LMP by pointing to the benefits it has achieved, including a 5 percent reduction in spare-parts inventory and a 5 percent increase in logistics operations productivity.

“This system is the backbone of the Army,” Coker said. “It’s time to roll it out and get it to the rest of the Army.”

GCN senior writer Dawn Onley contributed to this story.

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