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Experts Examine the Role of Data in Determining Logistics Success

Logistics are a crucial part of ensuring military readiness, and in an era of increasing competition, attacks on these operations can have heavy consequences. Today, many threats to logistics success are digital, and the U.S. Department of Defense is embracing data to properly address these challenges.

According to Maj. Gen. David Sanford, director of A4 logistics, engineering and force protection for the U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, “data is the foundation of all logistics operations.” Data, he said, helps forces identify what equipment is needed and how to distribute it. It can also prepare forces to carry out logistics among potential communications disruptions.

To successfully conduct logistics operations, military forces should be focused on flow, Dan Miller, defense business development director at SAP Public Services, said during a panel discussion at the Potomac Officers Club’s Preparing for the Contested Logistics Era Forum on Thursday.

“It’s not necessarily my requirements at the end state. It’s not necessarily my source and supply at the beginning. It’s thinking about what I need to flow on which path to achieve my mission requirements, whether my mission requirement is to keep my target stores open or run my factory or enable combat forces in certain regions,” he elaborated.

Advancements in three areas – data collection, data transmission and data analytics – have recently transformed the way information is utilized to maintain a steady flow of logistics support, he said.

When managing the upkeep element of logistics, the DOD has long used the condition based maintenance plus model, which applies and integrates processes, technologies and knowledge-based capabilities to identify systems and components in need of maintenance.

Steven Morani, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for sustainment for the DOD, said that this method, though useful, was previously missing a strong data analytics component.

A big part of the problem, he added, was challenges with resourcing the engineering. Now, the DOD is working with outside organizations that have those capabilities to consider system needs.

With industry connections being made more frequently, the importance of data sharing has extended beyond the internal DOD and to its partners. When companies allow this data sharing to occur, it opens new opportunities for DOD users, said Anthony Baity, director of resource integration and deputy chief of staff for logistics, engineering and force protection (AF/A4P) for the Air Force.

“It’s not giving up your authority, it’s not giving up your priority and that data. It’s allowing your user, the DOD in this case, to use that data from all these different sources,” he explained.

The Air Force, Baity shared, is currently working with the private sector to lay the groundwork for dealing with logistics disruptions caused by disconnected data sources by integrating its networks.

Miller said he has already seen “rapid changes” within both the DOD and industry in the way data is used. He cited changes in data policy and the promotion of data sharing as developments that have begun moving data use in logistics forward.

What he has noticed as a result is now, both sectors are providing the tools users need more quickly, which significantly reduces the time needed to make assessments and respond to logistics challenges.

Advancements in technology are also sweeping the Intelligence Community, which is undergoing its own modernization journey. At the Potomac Officers Club’s next event – the 9th Annual Intel Summit on Sept. 21 – top intelligence officials and industry leaders will come together to discuss the ways the IC is evolving to adapt to the changing demands of the modern intelligence landscape. To learn more and register to attendclick here.

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