Real time asset visibility is leading the way for retrograde
May 13, 2014
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (May 14, 2014) Nearly 13 years after the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, U.S. troops now face a major logistical challenge as they track and transport tons of equipment from Afghanistan back to the United States.
To assist with this unprecedented requirement to reduce the military's logistics footprint, the Department of Defense is using the Battle Command Sustainment Support System-Node Management (BCS3-NM). BCS3-NM, a situational awareness tool, provides users with accurate, real time in-transit and total asset visibility for the retrograde effort.
"With BCS3-NM, in-theater managers can view the common operating picture (COP) to accurately anticipate when they will receive equipment, and then plan how best to stage and move the equipment forward to its next destination," said Calvin Pilgrim, product director, Sustainment System Mission Command (S2MC). "This capability has made it the logical choice for retrograde operations."
BCS3-NM is able to track vehicles, pallets, cargo and containers by accessing the equipment's Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFID) or satellite transponders, including high value cargo instrumented with Advanced Tracking Intrusion Detection (ATID) devices.
Employed by U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A), United States Central Command (CENTCOM); United States Pacific Command (PACOM); Marine Corps Forces Central Command (MARCENT); and the Navy SEABEEs, BCS3-NM enables logistics operations for ground transportation, ships, aircraft, facilities, units and nodes through a visual map display. It allows operators to maintain visibility over equipment and supplies through a comprehensive In-Transit Visibility (ITV) and Asset Visibility (AV) picture for commanders and staffs at all levels of command.
By pinpointing the exact anticipated arrival time, commanders can sound an alert when a shipment is late to confirm both the drivers and equipment are safely en route.
What sets BCS3-NM apart is that it integrates multiple data feeds from Department of Defense (DoD) and commercial transportation systems to provide users access to the most current ITV information across the joint forces.
"With its joint capabilities, commanders across all of the forces use BCS3-NM to see the pipeline for end-to-end commodity management," Pilgrim said.
As of April, 2014, the retrograde effort will require the Army to move an estimated 80,000 containers and 20,000 vehicles from Afghanistan to the U.S. The routes are varied, but the majority of the movement is via the Northern Distribution Network (NDN). The NDN stretches from the Baltic ports in the north part of Eastern Europe to Afghanistan and along more than a dozen countries and through Pakistan. This route is also known as PACKGLOC.
"With the addition of BCS3-NM to the MARCENT G-4 team, we have been able to provide accurate, real time in-transit and total asset visibility of import/export cargo in support of operations and exercises throughout the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility," said Lt. Col. John Harman, fusion cell officer in Charge (OIC) at the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Deployment Distribution Operations Center, Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. "With BCS3-NM support, we have retrograded around 75 percent of our equipment and supplies since August 2011."
BCS3-NM provides asset visibility throughout the supply chain from the point of shipment to final destination, tracking resources and establishing automated alerts when critical resources require individual tracking or are below prescribed levels. It also forecasts future mission requirements based on actual information rather than estimated data, which is why even during non-retrograde operations, MARCENT has relied on BCS3-NM. This past winter, BCS3-NM assisted USFOR-A Joint Munitions Office (J4) with tracking all of the parts they ordered to repair dozens of hail damaged non-mission capable helicopters.
"BCS3-NM gave us the capability to manage the recovery, have visibility of the items and the ability to expedite much-needed parts to repair the aircraft," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Craig Phillips, the USFOR-A J4 Aviation Maintenance Advisor.
The largest retrograde undertaking to date requires coordination both stateside and abroad. The Pentagon, Defense Logistics Agency, Army Sustainment Command Operation in Rock Island, Ill. and other installations also use BCS3-NM for tracking equipment out of theater back to the U.S.
Later this year, BCS3-NM functionality will transition into a web services capability as part of the Army's Command Post Computing Environment (CP CE). The CP CE aims to simplify hardware and software infrastructures for Command Posts from Battalion to Corps and Army level by web-enabling the warfighting functions of fires, logistics, intelligence, airspace management and maneuver and displaying them on a common, geospatial digital map hosted on a single workstation. With a complete operational picture, commanders can better understand their real-time and future combat power needs and plan their logistics needs accordingly.
"Having the ability to track the convoy that is transporting repair parts for your tanks, or knowing exactly how much fuel your vehicles have used at any given moment can be a game-changer for tactical mission planning," Pilgrim said. "Whether ramping up or retrograde, BCS3-NM will continue to provide a robust joint logistics capability deployed to our armed forces around the world."
Kenneth Croston, PM Mission Command, contributed to this story.