The U.S. Marines Corps is deploying radio-frequency identification technology to provide previously unheard-of visibility into the location and delivery of supplies and equipment.
Up to now, information about shipping equipment and supplies has been limited to port-to-port data—that is, when the supplies arrived at or left a port. But by years end, that situation will have changed for Marines in Iraq and elsewhere.
With real-time information on the location of parts, equipment and supplies at their fingertips, RFID will change the way Marines make tactical decisions.
"[RFID] provides the capability for a commander to have visibility in the logistics train. It allows him to make decisions on a real-time basis—something commanders have never had before," said Donald Cooper, RFID project officer within the Marine Corps System Commands TDIS (Transportation, Distribution and Information System) team that is overseeing the implementation of RFID technology. "That is going to play into his assessment on the battlefield. Its a great intelligence factor and will determine when hes going to move people where."
As part of the Department of Defense mandate that all military services use RFID by January, the Marines, in a joint initiative with the U.S. Army, began pursuing the technology about a year ago. The goal: providing commanders with the ability to track equipment anywhere in a theater of combat.
Last month, the Marines tested active RFID capabilities as part of a larger project within the DODs Joint Automated Information Technology project to overhaul specific applications, including the MAGTF (Marine Air Ground Task Force) Deployment Support System and AMST (Automated Manifest System-Tactical). Next month, the group plans to do a real-world RFID implementation that will spread 600 RFID interrogation devices throughout Marine Corps bases around the world, giving Marines the ability to track supplies.
"By having more than 600 points [of contact], every activity that has a requirement to receive or ship will have the ability to read or write a tag," said Cooper in Quantico, Va.