Army to deploy enterprisewide logistics sytem

Logistics is a vital, if unsexy, part of military operations that often gets overshadowed by flashy weapons systems and platforms. The U.S. Army is in the initial stages of deploying a new enterprise-level logistics system that will allow warfighters to track the status of requested parts and to manage their units’ budgets for acquiring additional gear.

The Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-Army) is designed to help units anticipate, allocate and synchronize the movement of vital supplies and equipment to combat theaters. It is one of the largest enterprise resource planning (ERP) system implementations in the Defense Department, with an expected 160,000 users, government officials say.

Managed by the Army Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS) and developed by Northrop Grumman, the system is now in an initial test deployment at Fort Bliss, Texas.

The program in August received its Milestone C approval, which officially moved the effort into a formal program of record. Milestone C status allows the program to shift from the engineering, manufacturing and deployment phase into the production and deployment phase.

In the Fort Bliss deployment, GCSS-Army Release 1.1 replaced the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division’s (2/1 AD) legacy logistics management information systems. A Web-based ERP system, it will be used to manage unit sustainment and tactical financial functions, such as the acquisition of parts and supplies.

GCSS-Army uses SAP software, a commercial ERP system, to replace a variety of Army information management and logistics systems. Because it integrates with Defense Department electronic financial tracking and planning systems, GCSS-Army also allows commanders to accurately perform cost management, financial visibility and total cost ownership for tactical equipment, personnel and sustainment, said Randy Tart, Northrop Grumman’s deputy program manager for GCSS-Army.

The idea of a single unified logistics system had been kicking around the Army for nearly a decade before the GCSS-Army program was launched in late 2007, Tart said. But he noted that these early concepts were more customized types of technology that were discarded when the service decided to move to an ERP-based system.

One of the major advantages of GCSS-Army is that it allows its users to track the status of parts orders. This was a major challenge for older logistics support systems, Tart said. During Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s, the systems in use allowed units to order parts, but there was no function to determine the order’s status. One of the results of this uncertainty was that supply officers made multiple requests for the same parts. There was also no function for the parts to go to where the units were during the operation, leaving stacks of supplies in rear logistics centers, he said.

GCSS-Army avoids these issues by allowing users to track parts and manage costs associated with sustainment, Tart said. Release 1.1 replaces three major Army logistics systems: the Property Book Unit Supply Enhanced system, Standard Army Maintenance System-Enhanced and the Standard Army Retail Supply System. To support the launch with the 2/1 AD, the program team converted more than 240,000 data records, modified 38 independent interfaces, transferred more than $1.83 million worth of open logistics transactions with zero errors, and trained more than 300 military and civilian personnel via Web-based and instructor facilitated courses.

If the current round of testing is successfully completed, Tart said that a formal fielding decision will be made in 2012 to deploy GCSS-Army across the entire service. The fielding will occur in two waves: the first will take place from late 2012 through 2014 and replace warehousing, supply chain and tactical financing functions; and the second phase will take place between 2014 and 2017 and replace property book and maintenance capabilities.

The 2/1 AD is the second unit to receive Release 1.1 of GCSS-Army. The 11 Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Irwin, Calif., converted to the system in July 2010.

About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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