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Radio ID Tagging Aims to Improve Military Logistics

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

MILWAUKEE, Sept. 14, 2004 – Across-the-board use of high-tech inventory- tracking tags for military shipments should benefit both warfighters and the bottom line, senior U.S. officials said here today.

That's why, starting in January, the Defense Department wants its suppliers to start using radio frequency identification technology for shipping containers, said Alan Estevez, deputy undersecretary of defense for supply chain integration, at the National Defense Transportation Association's annual conference.

By 2007, Estevez said, the department will require suppliers to apply RFID tags to cases, pallets and all packaging of commodities shipped to all DoD locations.

The Defense Department, he noted, simply is mirroring newer inventory-control systems already undertaken by private-sector giants such as Wal-Mart.

The Army now has $100 million invested in radio frequency identification technology, said Army Brig. Gen. Charles W. Fletcher Jr., commanding general of the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command in Alexandria, Va., who also spoke at the conference.

Having the ability to track and account for all military inventories during shipment around the world, Fletcher observed, would be a huge force multiplier.

"This gives us the ability to truly forecast (logistical) readiness," he explained, noting that surveys say many of today's military logisticians don't trust the current supply system. This is evident, he said, by the occurrence of multiple supply requisitions during wartime, which wastes both time and money.

Fletcher said the Army also is working to integrate newer inventory- and shipment-tracking systems with joint warfighting doctrine.

Harnessing technology such as radio frequency identification tags will improve the military's supply system, Fletcher explained. "That supports those soldiers, those sailors, and those Marines and airmen," he said.

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