The View From the

By Kim S. Nash  |  Posted 2007-08-28 Print this article Print

The View From the Ground

But to really understand the magnitude of the task, you have to spend time with Mary Legeret.

In July, Legeret packed fatigues, received personal body armor and left Fort Bliss, Texas, for a fourth stint in Iraq. She's a civilian who's worked for 26 years for the DRMS, the Defense Logistics Agency unit that handles reverse logistics for the military.

This tour, Legeret's mission specifies that she get a grasp on how much equipment will hit the DRMS facilities in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan once exit starts. From Baghdad's Green Zone, she will fly 110 miles north to Camp Anaconda, known as "Mortaritaville" for the frequent mortar fire there. She will walk around storage facilities to inventory the yards, counting trucks and tanks, broken items and backup parts.

She'll also meet with others from DRMS working on the retrograde process as well as with leaders from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines through Petraeus' Multi-National Force-Iraq, to talk over their preliminary plans for disposing of unusable equipment.

"I have to look down the road and think, 'What do we need to put in place now so we're ready when it happens?'" she says. "I'm looking for ground truth on capacity."

The time-consuming physical collection of "ground truth" is necessary, in part, because electronic truth isn't readily available. DRMS' software for tracking equipment going through retrograde, a custom-built system named Daisy, doesn't automatically share data with the inventory systems of the Army and other branches of the service, says Peters, the DRMS director, although it can be queried from other applications in the Defense Logistics Agency.

In any case, a revamp of DRMS key software is in the works, according to Peters, with plans to use SAP applications later on. But Daisy won't start to change until 2010 or 2011, Peters says. Electronic interfaces between Daisy's data and inventory systems at the service branches, he adds, "is one feature we're hoping to attain."

For now, when the Army wants to send a tank to Legeret's group to be demilitarized, for example, soldiers print data about the vehicle—stock number, condition code, demilitarization requirements—from the Standard Army Retail Supply System on to paper form called a 1348, she explains. The 1348 is handed to a DRMS worker, who sits at a PC to enter the information into Daisy.

Meanwhile, battlefield commanders must begin to allocate some existing troops to reverse-logistics tasks, notes the Transportation Command's Fletcher, including cleaning and entering data into JOPES tracking applications about the gear going back. Others will be assigned to protect convoys trucking stuff out.

"The soldier out on patrol today is the soldier who will have to repair the vehicle to move," Fletcher explains, "or, if not, we have to put additional [personnel] there to do that."

Next Page: Streamlining the DoD's Systems

Senior Writer
Kim has covered the business of technology for 14 years, doing investigative work and writing about legal issues in the industry, including Microsoft Corp.'s antitrust trial. She has won numerous awards and has a B.S. degree in journalism from Boston University.

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