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Army Ammunition Management Information System Challenges

Commonly considered the genesis of the current transformation in military logistics automation and asset visibility, the “iron mountain” stockpiles of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm revealed tremendous shortcomings in the logistics community’s ability to accurately depict the location of supplies and services on the modern battlefield. The solution, Army total asset visibility, was originally one of the six tenets of the Revolution in Military Logistics. But it was also a Force XXI initiative aimed at automating, streamlining, and making more efficient and effective the management processes needed to sustain large combat formations in garrison and in battle.

However, that was 1990; Force XXI and the Army After Next have yielded to the Future Combat System (FCS) and its promise of a network-centric information system for battlefield command and control. Within the auspices of the Army enterprise solution and fully interoperable with the other services, FCS promises spinoffs in technologies, systems, platforms, and processes with the potential to revolutionize the way that the United States fights future wars. Yet with all this promise, our progress toward these goals is still hampered by dated and antiquated information systems, stovepiped logistics systems, and a patchwork of middleware solutions used to integrate Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMISs) into a common operational picture.

Ammunition management is no exception. The separation of the two main ammunition STAMISs, the Standard Army Ammunition System-Modernization (SAAS–MOD) and the Total Ammunition Management Information System (TAMIS), illustrates the challenges faced across the services in the pursuit of an integrated logistics common operational picture.

Problems with SAAS–MOD and TAMIS

SAAS–MOD is used for operational stock record accountability and inventory management at materiel management centers, ammunition supply points, and ammunition transfer and holding points. TAMIS is used for forecasting, allocating, and requisitioning training ammunition requirements. SAAS–MOD and TAMIS are independent systems connected through requisitioning processes (which normally do not pass higher than the theater sustainment command level) to the Department of the Army G–3, –4, –7, or –8 for aid in the procurement process.

Anecdotal accounts from Afghanistan and Iraq have illustrated that the communications challenges between these two STAMISs are normally created by a lack of operator proficiency, inadequate or nonexistent communications infrastructure at remote locations, and the emphasis on manual means of inventory management, such as the use of spreadsheets. Such problems were claimed to be common throughout certain remote areas of Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and were primarily due to limitations in the communications infrastructure as well as communications support required to operate the required STAMIS.

Using TAMIS for Operational Ammunition

While deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom 06–08, the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command’s combat service support automation management officer (CSSAMO) developed a user’s guide to help SAAS–MOD operators configure the system to accept Internet protocol (IP) routing, Department of Defense activity address codes (DODAACs), passwords, and permissions across multiple networks. Within the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command’s area of operations, the CSSAMO found that TAMIS, which was normally used for forecasting and requisitioning only training ammunition, was also being used for operational ammunition.

SAAS–MOD integrated the requisite data fields, financial data, and requisitions, but not without some challenges to IP configuration between the very small aperture terminal satellite system and the established Unclassified but Sensitive Internet Protocol Routing Network. For example, when requisitioning North Atlantic Treaty Organization standard 5.56-millimeter rounds, the nature of use for the rounds determines the method of requisition, source of funding, and amount of allocation—even in a combat theater. Ammunition used for training is requisitioned through TAMIS, and the same type of ammunition used for an operational mission is requisitioned through SAAS–MOD.

Improvised Management Control Processes

Because of the configuration complexities of the STAMISs needed for a commodity, frustrated operators, logisticians, commodity managers, and signal personnel—from the user level to theater level—resort to improvised management control processes. To further complicate the issue, ammunition procurement cycles follow the quadrennial Presidential terms of office and the Quadrennial Defense Review, which lead to the constitutionally mandated 2-year funding cycles and program objective memorandums. These program objective memorandums effectively place strategic ammunition procurement cycles at 4 years out from their current dates. The tactical and operational frustrations caused by this cycle limit an already inflexible sustainment process and emplace crucial constraints on the operational commanders’ reach and stamina.

Army Total Asset Visibility

In 1995, the logistics community believed automatic information technology to be the answer to gaining and maintaining Army total asset visibility. As a part of this concept, radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags would be able to provide the near-real-time location of assets and commodities transiting the transportation grid.

Today, RFID interrogators increasingly dot the landscape and satellite-based systems provide pin-point accuracy with systems such as Blue Force Tracker. However, logisticians are still trying to determine how to integrate not only ammunition STAMISs but also other information systems to create a logistics common operational picture for the commander to enable rapid, accurate decisionmaking capabilities. At this point, only the Battle Command Sustainment Support System (BCS3), which connects various STAMISs and command and control systems, is accomplishing this goal.

Focusing on logistics management processes and information technology systems will enable force structure realignments or reductions that can actually increase mobility and effective force utilization as the Army struggles with frequent deployment cycles and personnel shortfalls in its sustainment forces.

Major James M.L. Cook is the team chief for the Afghan National Security Forces Combined Assessment Team for the 209th Afghan National Army Corps area of operations. He holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course, and the Army Command and General Staff College.

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