Army studies using technology to improve logistics
March 14, 2014
- "As we move into the new century, how do we reduce the demand for supplies that need to be moved forward to wherever we happen to be engaged?"
- "Technology has the opportunity to provide advances -- reduce the amount of fuel, reduce the amount of water and to make sure we can obtain it locally."
- "Can we make them move faster to help this logistics tail so they're in line with our research and development system moving into the acquisition system and bringing it into the force in a quicker way?"
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (March 14, 2014) -- A National Research Council, or NRC, committee studying ways to reduce the size of the Army's logistical demands met with Research, Development and Engineering Command experts recently to look at technologies that may help the Army reach that goal.
Jyuji D. Hewitt, deputy director of Research, Development and Engineering Command, known as RDECOM, led the command's team of experts who presented in person as well as via video teleconference from locations across the country.
"The NRC study group's focus is technologies that have the potential to reduce logistics requirements and meet sustainment requirements in the Army through 2020 and beyond in support of the Joint Force Commander," Hewitt said. "If you look at the size of the force, it's about one-third combat power and two-thirds combat support. If you attack that two-thirds piece, that's where you're going to get a lot of return on investment.
"That helps the chief of staff of the Army achieve his 2025 vision of a smaller Brigade Combat Team that's just as lethal, can move out faster and doesn't have this huge tail," Hewitt said.
Retired Brig. Gen. Dr. Gerald Galloway leads the NRC study group, a division of the U.S. National Academies. His team of scholars and industry practitioners is conducting the study at the request of Lt. Gen. Raymond V. Mason, deputy chief of staff of the Army for Logistics.
"In [recent] wars, the Army moves with fuel. A great deal of food, water and many, many other things causes a very large logistics tail for those at the very front lines," said Galloway, a professor in the University of Maryland's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "As we move into the new century, how do we reduce the demand for supplies that need to be moved forward to wherever we happen to be engaged?
"Technology has the opportunity to provide advances -- reduce the amount of fuel, reduce the amount of water and to make sure we can obtain it locally. [We need to] figure out ways in which the materiel we do move is lighter and more reliable," Galloway continued.
RDECOM presented briefings to the NRC committee's 15-person team on technologies in the areas of condition-based maintenance, fuel delivery and efficiency, water acquisition, ammunition logistics, logistics automation, operational energy, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, precision air drop, and combat feeding. Army Communications-Electronics Command, Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity, Army Public Health Command, and Army Corps of Engineers/Engineer Research and Development Center also provided briefings.
Galloway said his team is focused on evaluating technology areas in those with the greatest potential and providing those recommendations to Mason.
"This is an exciting time for the Army -- it's a challenging time. As we go into the next decade, we want to do our part to ensure that the Army is taking with it those technologies that are going to give it the biggest bang for the buck in terms of logistics," Galloway said. "RDECOM is at the heart of that discussion."
RDECOM's briefings proved insightful for the NRC group because they offered an opportunity to interact directly with the Army's scientists and engineers who are working on technological solutions to these logistical challenges, Galloway said.
"The Army, in RDECOM, is exploring cutting-edge technologies ranging from autonomous vehicles to methods to increase reliability so we know when we need spare parts -- condition-based maintenance. Finding better ways to get water faster and cheaper," Galloway said. "All of those things are ideas that we heard and explored. We were able to learn from the researcher at RDECOM which ones they saw moving quickly, to answer our questions about why some couldn't move more quickly, and to help us understand where they thought the real benefits were going to be."
The committee expects to publish its report this fall.
Hewitt said RDECOM's challenge is to transition these technologies from the research and development phase to acquisition and into the hands of Soldiers.
"The challenge is some of these technologies are mature, and some are a bit further down the road," Hewitt said. "Can we make them move faster to help this logistics tail so they're in line with our research and development system moving into the acquisition system and bringing it into the force in a quicker way?
"This is one example of the many things RDECOM is doing to work with the [Program Executive Office] and [Program Management] communities, the centers of excellence, [Assistant Secretary, Acquisition, Logistics and Technology], [U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command] and [the Army Capabilities Integration Center], etc., to work together to get things done the Army needs done," Hewitt said.
RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC delivers it.