In a global environment that grows ever more complex, the modern logistician is increasingly challenged by the substantial volume of data and legacy data systems providing support to combatant commanders. Logisticians currently spend countless hours sifting through vast service-specific data lakes trying to determine good versus bad data to enable the visualization of information to inform their commanders’ decision-making processes. To remedy this situation, the DOD is fielding new data platforms to facilitate better data-driven decision making. Advana is one such platform. Advana seeks to resolve these legacy issues by aggregating and integrating disparate and stove piped data sets into a consolidated digital dashboard.
Army Logistics University (ALU) is at the forefront of logistics data education within the military academic environment through its data education and joint logistics academic initiatives. During a recent course offering, students attending ALU’s Joint Logistics Course (JLC) leveraged the capabilities and tools of Advana (instead of traditional static PowerPoint slides) to present a detailed capstone briefing of a theater-level operational problem to the Defense Logistics Agency’s (DLA’s) J-3, Navy Rear Adm. Doug Noble, at Fort Lee, Virginia. This first ever use of Advana in the JLC provided students with an opportunity to gain a valuable glimpse into the future with real-time data.
Current Logistics Data Environment
The DOD is developing and evolving technologies and processes in accordance with the DOD Data Strategy. However, most current DOD logistics support systems operate within individual service silos of excellence. These systems are encumbered by service-specific proprietary operating systems and processes, with the majority providing no data analysis capability, and often hinder rather than facilitate the formulation of critical decisions. Logisticians lose valuable hours devoted to sifting through data lakes, trying to transform data into usable and relevant information to arm decision makers with actionable knowledge and analytics. Without access to an analytics platform tailored to organizational needs and requirements, staff officers can spend inordinate time creating PowerPoint presentations, copying and pasting screenshots of individual sustainment systems to compile and present information for senior leader updates. Little to no time is spent analyzing the data, and critical thinking is applied at the most elementary level for the most complex problem sets. Compounding this is the potential for information to be siloed between services within a joint operating environment. An analytics platform such as Advana can mitigate many of the current shortfalls and inefficiencies in joint data analytics.
What is Advana?
Advana — a mash-up of the words advancing analytics — is the DOD’s technology platform, which, in addition to housing a collection of enterprise data, is much more than simply a data warehouse. Advana arms military decision makers across the DOD with decision support analytics, data management and data science tools, and associated support services. In her May 5, 2021, memorandum, Creating Data Advantage, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Dr. Kathleen Hicks, named the Advana platform as the single enterprise authoritative data management and analytics platform for the DOD. The purpose of Advana is to make data widely accessible, understandable, and actionable across the DOD enterprise by translating common enterprise data into profound yet actionable insights and outcomes for the decision maker.
Utilizing Data Analytics to Enhance Joint Logistics Education
In June 2022, Greg Little, Deputy Comptroller for Enterprise Data and Business Performance in the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office (CDAO), and Brad Bunn, Vice Director, DLA, facilitated a forum centered on the future of data utilization during a data summit at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. ALU leveraged the insights gained from this data summit to modernize the JLC curriculum to incorporate emergent data analytics technologies and platforms.
The target audience for the JLC is field grade officers, senior noncommissioned officers, warrant officers, and DOD civilians who are currently part of a strategic or operational level staff. These logistics leaders enter the JLC with significant experience at the tactical level of their respective service.
This modernization in turn resulted in a cooperative whole-of-community approach by JLC cadre and leaders to develop course content within the JLC to serve as a proof of principle exercise to incorporate the utilization of the Advana platform within a recent course offering of the JLC. The JLC class used for the proof of principle exercise consisted of 48 students representing each service, including National Guard, the reserve component, and multiple operational and strategic level organizations. The strategic problem for the proof of principle exercise was set within the South China Sea region. Stakeholders from Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), Central Command (CENTCOM), DLA, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense CDAO contributed to the process through participating in weekly working groups, reviewing lessons learned, and developing academic applications for students’ utilization.
Bringing it All Together
Due to the agile nature of the proof of principle exercise, an aggressive execution timeline within the constraints of a 10-day course, and the fact that, for most of the class, this exercise was their first exposure to the Advana platform, course instructors guided the class through overview lessons from Joint Staff J46, Logistics Plans and Exercises, on the basic layout and program architecture for Advana. This orientation was followed by deep dives into TRANSCOM’s nodal health application, CENTCOM’s joint operational contracting support application, and DLA’s event visualization assessment and supply chain app logistics enhancement applications. The Advana team led an in-person training session over a period of three days on the framework and programming process, followed by the hands-on execution of data to information used to expound on the capstone scenario. Students quickly developed a functional understanding of the system to execute all required functions and actions to generate and visually portray information for their capstone out brief. Armed with the capabilities provided by Advana, in the time it would have usually taken a staff officer to build a PowerPoint slide deck, and with a little help from the Advana support team, the students also developed a base operating support-integrator application and a boards, bureaus, centers, cells, and working groups application to use as part of their capstone out brief. After receiving the capstone out brief, Noble encouraged the students to become more familiar with Advana and to be emissaries and advocates for Advana within their organizations.
In today’s quickly changing and rapidly evolving threat environment, commanders must have the tools and information to allow them to make timely and appropriate data-driven decisions at the speed of war. Yesterday’s information does not yield effective decision making in tomorrow’s multidomain battle. Advana seeks to bring the best available data to a consolidated point for the DOD and offers the toolset for staffs to present actionable data sets to the decision maker. ALU will continue to develop and evolve the role of Advana and other analytics technologies within the functional logistics and professional military education courses provided to the logistics enterprise community.
Lt. Col. Heath A. Mullins currently serves as the Course Director of the Joint Logistics Course, Army Logistics University at Fort Lee, Virginia. He is a graduate of the Joint and Combined Warfighting School, Army Command and General Staff Officer Course and has a Master of Arts in acquisition and procurement management.
Lt. Col. Matthew Strickland currently serves as the Operational Logistics Data Lead Sled Dog for the Joint Staff J46. He is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff Officer Course and has a Master of Arts in educational leadership from Saint Louis University.
Lt. Col. Nathaniel J. Groves currently serves as an associate professor with the Joint Logistics Course, Army Logistics University at Fort Lee, Virginia. He is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff Officer Course and has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a Master of Business Administration.
Air Force Maj. Michael D. Rajchel currently serves as an associate professor with the Joint Logistics Course, Army Logistics University at Fort Lee, Virginia. He is an Air Command and Staff College graduate and has a Doctor of Business Administration with a focus in operations.
This article was published in the Winter 23 issue of Army Sustainment.