Joint Ammunition Management System for Global Defense Organizations

Why Global Defense Organizations Need a Joint Ammunition Management System

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Global geopolitical events are making it more urgent than ever that global defense organizations like the US DoD modernize and implement a single Joint Ammunition Management System across all departments

The United States Department of Defense (DoD) does not have a department-wide, joint Ammunition Management System.  Each Service (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps) has their own retail ammunition management system.  While the Army is identified as the Single Manager for Conventional Ammunition (SMCA) across DoD, there has been no modern initiative to acquire one software system across DoD. 

The age-of-old question is, why? 

The answer is unknown.  

To be frank, no one has a good answer as to why there is no single, joint ammunition management system and, even more importantly, why there is essentially no action to acquire one.  In my opinion, this is unacceptable.

The benefits of a joint ammunition management system for global defense organizations are tremendous. So, why do we not have one? Click To Tweet

The One Non-Negotiable Asset

Today, the US DoD requires a joint ammunition management system more than ever before.  We have not fought stove-piped, by Service, for decades.  We fight “jointly” to achieve one objective — win America’s wars.  I learned early in my military career:

“A Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine in combat can survive months without repair parts, weeks without shelter and personal equipment, days without fuel, food or water, but not one second without ammunition.” 

So, why do we not have a joint defense platform and a method to manage ammunition across DoD? 

The US Congress mandated the DoD reduce systems across the force, and specifically identified the requirement for one ammunition management system.  The DoD answer was not to reduce systems, but create a new one…the National Level Ammunition Capability (NLAC).  NLAC is an asset visibility system with the intent to provide enhanced munitions logistics planning and management capability, tailored to the user that is relatively easy to operate. 

The National Level Ammunition Capability (NLAC)

Unfortunately, NLAC falls short of being a true joint ammunition management system platform. It does not act as a real-time “network”, connecting multiple parties/locations across the Services, nor is it able to leverage both military and US industrial base multi-tier capabilities and capacities.  All too often personnel operate “swivel chair” operations and use an extraordinary amount of “man-hours” to conduct work that should be accomplished by the software platform. 

Over the past three years, America has struggled overcoming the COVID-19 global pandemic that, unfortunately, highlighted America’s deficiencies in both at-home manufacturing and overall global supply chain resilience.  The reality is whether it is COVID-19, ships stuck in the Suez Canal, or port labor shortages, supply chain disruptions are happening daily, and we must be ready before it happens.  It is the only viable option. 

Without a Joint Ammunition Management System, visibility and operational readiness are compromised, and an extraordinary number of hours are wasted with "swivel-chair" manual effort. Click To Tweet

As we move further into the 21st century, America faces its first global peer competitor in China.  We have not encountered such a threat, both militarily and commercially, in nearly a century.  Furthermore, the United States global dominance has not been truly tested in areas like commerce and defense since World War II.  Clearly, we do not live in the same world we did in 1941. 

Our world today moves much faster, and today’s munitions are more precise and lethal than ever before.  Yet, the United States’ industrial capability and capacity are not what it once was during World War II.  So, we must acknowledge that, and find innovative and modernized ways to leverage technology to enable the joint warfighter to be faster, more lethal, yet also more efficient than ever before.

The Challenges of Multiple Ammunition Management Systems

With multiple ammunition management software systems in place, the DoD faces a myriad of challenges.  Below is a handful that most organizations are challenged by:

  • Completing asset and inventory management tasks accurately and efficiently 
  • Supplying critical and timely information for decision-making
  • Controlling high administrative overhead costs incurred due to manual order tasks
  • “Swivel-chair” operations (multiple users are required to enter redundant information)
  • Meeting and maintaining FIAR auditability across multiple systems, across multiple Services
  • Communication between the individual ammunition management systems
  • A modern and innovative joint ammunition management system can solve these challenges and mitigate DoD’s vulnerabilities. 

Joint Ammunition Management System

The joint solution must be cloud-based, secure, multi-party, and multi-tier to effectively operate in DoD’s highly tiered operational structure.  It must be capable of instantly leveraging control towers to match demand-to-supply-to-transportation, resulting in immediate increased agility and responsiveness.  It has to provide a real-time single version of the truth to its users.  The solution must be capable of integrating with wholesale software solutions across DoD and the Services while also integrating with and supporting a more extensive, multi-functional logistics network that can modernize at the pace of commercial industry and embrace commercial concepts that improve mission success.  

"A joint ammunition management system must provide DoD-wide FIAR auditability, while integrating and communicating with financial systems across DoD." -Michael Bruens Click To Tweet

Additionally, the solution must also support DoD-wide FIAR auditability, while integrating and communicating with financial systems across DoD.  This solution synergy will enhance DoD’s warfighting capabilities, improving effectiveness and efficiency from the industrial base to the point of use.

A joint ammunition management solution must improve overall management/accountability, visibility, planning, and auditability of munitions in these areas:

Procurement to Delivery:  Manage the procurement process from contract submission to the receipt of inventory from the vendors, including delivery schedule planning.

Master Data Management: Must manage master data by being the authoritative source or integrating with any authoritative data/data source, and manage the data effectively in a federated manner.  The system must be able to manage all the item characteristics and allow updating of the item by authoritative sources and user permissions while maintaining Service unique managed characteristics. The system will maintain a substitution/interchangeability listing for National Stock Numbers (NSN’s) along with the Prime substitution relationship in order of fulfillment (i.e., primary sub, secondary sub).

Autonomous Forecasting:  Autonomous intelligent forecasting must determine forecasting calculations at a user-defined cadence.  Automatically monitor demand signals (point of sales/issue) for any aberrations and continuously adjust demand and supply plans to sustain customer service levels.

Autonomous and AI/ML Assisted Planning:  Contain a demand planning capability that enables plans by stockage objectives, and reorder points can be either automatic through intelligent agents, or it can suggest reordering quantities for the end user to consider and execute.  Planning uses various data sets to determine Courses of Action (COAs), which may include storage area (sq. ft. or total pallet count), Total Munitions Requirement (TMR), Storage location authorizations, unit authorization/ allowances, demand history by unit, by Ammunition Supply Point (ASP), by geo-location and other data sets modeled in the system.  A modern system will include intelligent agents that use machine learning (ML) and can be taught to “learn” what actions need to be taken for certain conditions to maximize stock and parts utilization.

Secure Control Tower:  Supports data fusion across multiple parties, including but not limited to Requisitions, Advance Shipping Notices (ASNs), Track and Trace, Projected Inventory Views (PIVs), capacities, etc.  A control tower enables the ammunition enterprise to operate like a “network”, multi-tier and multiparty capable with both organic and commercial industrial base partners, optimizing operations both vertically and horizontally, across the entire DoD, including both the Services and the Combatant Commands.

Federated Network:  The solution must be secure.  This means it must have flexible yet granular role-based permissions models to manage and control access to data and user-allowable actions.  It should be easy for administrators to add roles, users, and permissions.  Capabilities must be run as multiple instances that essentially look like one “instance” to a user.  This is highly beneficial to geographically dispersed and complex configurations inherent within DoD.  This enables different organizations to operate different versions of software if required.  They can each take upgrades/modernizations at other times based on their schedule (not requiring all customers to upgrade simultaneously), and the multiple instances allow more effortless scalability.  This capability can also help DoD interoperate with its Foreign Allies/Mission Partners, while honoring any Data Sovereignty laws.

Configurable Dashboards & Analytic Tool:  Highly visual, multi-tier configurable dashboards aid comprehension and keep users focused on crucial analytics and alerts without distractions.  Dashboards are available to all users and tiers, with various portlets and options, giving them total control over the data and layout.

True Government “COTS” architecture: Custom Off-the-Shelf software includes a commercial set of Defense related modules that are focused on providing critical Defense capabilities that are organically integrated with transformational commercial capabilities and delivered as an integrated solution.  The use of the commercial software, maintenance (corrective), and support of the base level software (Licensed Products), including the development tools, APIs, data models, and underlying commercial modules is included in a subscription fee.  Any deployed capabilities that are pushed into the base software product(s) are also supported under the annual subscription

Never Legacy Guarantee:  Subscription model includes support and modernization (e.g., no out-of-cycle sustainment costs) for deployments utilizing Software Development Tools and Backward Compatible Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).  This gives DoD choices on how to deploy capabilities, the resulting implementation is supported as COTS, and modernizations can be deployed as customers choose. This eliminates the “triple threat” of having to buy a software license and it’s maintenance, paying an integrator for customizing the solution, and then paying for support of the customized solution.  The architectural approach, a backward-compatible SDK, and public APIs allow multiple customers to run on the same software instance.  Commercial platform and module upgrades (bi-annual on average) could be implemented without affecting the current solution, and the customer can decide whether to take advantage of what new capabilities they desire without degrading overall solution capabilities.

Munitions Item Management: The solution must provide management of all types of munitions (Naval, Ground and Aviation) from initial receipt into the DoD to expenditure, demilitarization or FMS sale.  It should connect to virtually any DoD system (legacy and modern), via EDI ‘s and / or API’s and support both Defense Logistics Management Standards (DLMS) and legacy Military Standard Logistics Systems (MILS) transactions.

Warehousing Management: Capabilities should include Care of Supplies in Storage (COSIS), from receipt into stock to issue and subsequent returns, as required, including inventory management, location transfers, storage work orders (SWO), re-warehousing, inspection actions, and inventory cycle-count processes.  Multiple Ammunition Condition Defect Codes (CDC) per item must be supported.  The system must capture and manage the Net Explosive Weight (NEW), Hazard Class, Storage Compatibility, and Security Category authorized in each magazine/storage location.  Report all storage discrepancies in real time notifications/alerts to ensure compliance and minimize risk and errors.  Multi-level storage sub-locations must be available, including grid locations, bins, International Standards Organization Military-owned, Demountable Container (ISO MILVAN) containers, and open storage locations.

Inventory Cycle Count Processes:  The system should manage required periodic, Category I & II semi-annual, annual 100% physical inventory of all assets in storage.  It must support the DoD Physical Inventory Control Program (PICP) and allow cyclic or random sampling inventories to be conducted, while capturing all error reasons for analytic purposes as required by the PICP.  The system must support the development of required annual Inventory Plans and provide the ability to set scheduling alerts keep inspections and inventories on track by showing inventories due to be inspected.  

Flexible Lot/Serial Management:  Must be able to support all Service requirements by all munition types, including management by expiration date, install date, service life, and in-use date (i.e., captured flight time) for items like commercial nitroglycerin dynamite, Cartridge Actuated Devices & Propellant Actuated Devices (CADS/PADS), simunitions and other Class V (A) assets.  In addition to item attributes, CDCs are required for daily management of the item.

Serialized/IUID Asset Tracking:  The DoD needs to track serialized assets by Item Unique Identification (IUID) (Serial Number) from initial receipt into the DoD, to storage areas, including missile maintenance conversion to other missiles Department of Defense Identification Code/ National Stock Number/National Item Identification Number (DODIC/NSN/NIIN), transfers of location or Service and up to and including Demilitarization, FMS, and Expenditure or Loss action.

Real-Time Plano-graph:  The system should provide a planograph view of each storage location and is updated in real-time as transactions are processed (i.e., magazine transfers, issue and receipt transactions, and warehouse storage processes).

Inspections:  Ease of use to conduct various types of inspections or surveillance processes for reclassification notifications or end-of-life adjustments.  This should be done on a disconnected hand-held device that allows for the Inspector to view TM and TCTO details in real time, while syncing completed inspections back to the enterprise to update records.

Container Operations:  The system must be able to manage containerization build-up and tear down processes for bulk transfers, individual line items, or bulk item issuance, to support truck, vessel, air and rail movements.

Customer Orders:  It should manage customer orders from initial placement (internal to the system or received externally via DLMS or other transaction messages) by NSN/NIIN, Part number/CAGE or DODIC to the issue, turn-ins/returns, residue by NSN, and excess.  The solution must capture the receipt from the internal property book, either as auto-push/auto-receipt or receipt notification by the use or into the associated property book.

Configurable Reports:  It should allow the user to create, generate and save report formats for reoccurring uses, by Lot Number, Serial Number, DODIC, NSN/NIIN, expiration date, hazard class, compatibility, storage locations, and other item identifying attribute the Services require to manage ammunition.  The reports should be filterable and configurable by each user independent of Service Standardized reports.

Assistance Requests:  Assistance Requests assist Users in completing required tasks when assistance is needs from higher headquarters or authoritative owners of information.  This could be for Master Data information, requests to store Non-Standard munitions, approval for Local and Directed Disposition Orders, or any aspect of ammunition management requiring guidance from higher headquarters.  A tiered approach allows local, regional, and enterprise competent authority to make decisions at the appropriate level.  

DoD Compliant Forms:  The system should generate various forms with associated PDF-417 barcodes in accordance with DoD standards until those forms are no longer required and all transactions become paperless.  The forms must contain all required FIAR attribute data to ensure auditability and completeness, while supporting CAC PKI digital signatures, examples are DD 1348-1A Issue/Receipt forms, Internal work order/material movement forms, and inventory forms.  

Kitting/Bill of Material (BOM) Management:  It must allow the creation and management of munitions kits and BOM configuration by Service, this should include Complete Round Configuration (CRC) management, deployable mount out kits, weapon system configuration management, like HIMARS maintenance cycles and EOD response kits to name a few.

Role and Permissions Based:  The system must be role and permissions-based, ensuring all Federal Information System Controls Audit Manual (FISCAM) requirements are met and documented for audits.

Joint Ammunition Management System Enables DoD Effectiveness and Efficiency

That is a brief overview of the main capabilities and features of an effective Joint Ammunition Management System.

This technology and system capabilities exist today, allowing the DoD to mitigate the highlighted challenges mentioned earlier, maximizing the synergy a true joint ammunition management solution brings.  It will radically improve visibility, effectiveness, and efficiency across DoD in Service unique and joint operations. 

Global defense organizations can maximize effectiveness and readiness with a Joint Ammunition Management System. Click To Tweet

The US Marine Corps and US Air Force currently use the One Network Enterprises (ONE) ammunition management solution as their Accountable Property System of Record (APSR).  Other organizations have committed to utilize these capabilities.  The US Army retail ammunition management system, SAAS-MOD, will be replaced no later than 2027 unless the Army decides to extend it.  To be blunt, the Army must replace SAAS-MOD now.  It would be a huge mistake if the Army attempts to modernize SAAS-MOD, rather than replacing it with a modern, capable solution already deployed within the DoD.  The DoD must move to a true joint ammunition management capability. 

We must not continue to rely on legacy, antiquated solutions that cannot keep pace with today’s and, more importantly, tomorrow’s, fluid and lethal global battlefield.

The time to modernize is now. And there is progress here, for example the US Navy’s NOSS initiative (what is NOSS?), but much more needs to be done across the DoD. Moving to this capability will give the DoD true joint fiscally responsible, auditable planning, visibility, and actionability in one joint ammunition management software solution across all the Services and DoD headquarters.  Additionally, it will allow the DoD, along with their warfighting combatant commands, to have one single version of the truth (real-time visibility and actionability), regarding DoD-wide joint ammunition management. 

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Michael Bruens