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by Scott R. Gourley

Senior U.S. Department of Defense representatives were extremely upbeat in the immediate aftermath of the 2 December 2003 “Industry Summit” where they unveiled their new policy for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).
[See BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol. 5, Issue 45, November 13th, 2003].

The one day summit was held to provide Department of Defense representatives with the opportunity to explain the new RFID policy, which will require suppliers to put passive RFID tags on the lowest possible piece part/case/pallet packaging by January 2005. Specific topics discussed included the RFID Policy, standards, piece part/case/pallet level marking, and timeline for implementation and compliance. The summit also provided industry attendees with an opportunity to participate in the evolution and refinement of the evolving policy.

Refinement of the new policy standards is being coordinated by a Department of Defense RFID Implementation Integrated Product Team (IPT) supported by the DoD Logistics Automatic Identification Technology (AIT) Office. Leadership for the effort has been assigned to Mr. Alan Estevez, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Supply Chain Integration.

In a media teleconference convened the day after the industry summit, Estevez explained that “The nature of the way we fight has changed. Our enemy has changed. The speed with which we accomplish our battle [objectives] has changed. And in order to accommodate our support to our forces we need to change the way that we accomplish logistics; the way we support our forces on the battlefield.”

“And one of the ways we’re going about doing that is to look at the creation of what we call ‘Knowledge Enabled
Logistics,’ It’s part of our logistics transformation strategy,” he continued. “And we are looking at the use of Radio
Frequency Identification technology to enhance the ability to get that Knowledge Enabled Logistics to support our armed forces.”

“The reason we are ‘moving out’ in RFID now is that we believe that implementation of RFID now will allow us to push the technology – in other words, to drive the technology providers to provide technology that meets our applications. It will help lower the cost of the technology. It allows us to drive the standards to make sure that the standards support our requirements. And overall it just allows us to take early advantage of the supply chain efficiencies that can be gained through the use of RFID – again to insure that we are providing the best support possible for our forces in the field,” he said.

In terms of raw numbers, the DoD identifies approximately 43,000 suppliers that will be impacted by the evolving policy, providing everything from planes to boats to missiles at the large scale end to bio / chem suits, desert camouflage uniforms, body armor and food products at the individual end.

Describing the 2 December 2003 summit, Estevez noted that “The meeting we had yesterday with our suppliers was to open the dialogue with them about what our expectations are in the January 2005 time frame. By no means was yesterday a detailed explanation of our expectations of how the implementation will take place. It was the opening of that dialogue on how we intend to implement that in the January 2005 time frame. We want [the suppliers] to work with us as we develop our final policy and our final implementation strategy, which will be published in July 2004.”

Asked to characterize the initial industry response to the policy summit, Estevez explained, “I’d actually characterize it as pretty supportive. I had a lot of questions about how we’re going to do this implementation and the fact is that we were standing up there – I was standing up there – saying that this is early on and we were opening the dialogue with them. We were clear that we do intend to implement this technology, that we do have a mandate in the January 2005 time

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