The Department of Defense (DoD)’s Joint Logistics Enterprise, which spans both supply chain and logistics operations, provides the means to muster, transport, and sustain military power anywhere in the world at a high level of readiness. To operate successfully in an increasingly contested global security environment, however, the logistics enterprise needs to change how it operates.
In particular, the enterprise needs to overcome its reliance on thousands of disparate legacy information systems, which can’t provide the status of millions of military parts, supplies, and pieces of equipment, which are stocked and shipped around the world.
To address this challenge, DARPA announced the LogX program with the goal to develop and demonstrate software for real-time logistics and supply chain system situational awareness (diagnosis), future state prediction (prognosis), and resilience at unprecedented scale and speed. LogX aims to build a capability to work alongside existing logistics information systems that exploits the recent migration of logistics information to digital formats and the cloud. A Proposers Day for potential proposers will be held June 11, 2019, in Arlington, Virginia.
“The DoD Joint Logistics Enterprise is immense,” said John Paschkewitz, DARPA program manager in the Strategic Technology Office. “Most people don’t realize that the Air Force alone operates a fleet of aircraft four times the size of one of the largest U.S. airlines. The supply chain inventory to sustain the Air Force fleet has been estimated to be as large as multiple Fortune 500 companies combined. Add the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps’ needs, and you see how enormous the department’s global logistics and supply systems are, dwarfing any commercial logistics system.”
Obtaining coherent and detailed understanding of the total logistics system, such that impacts of changes on one part of the system are understood by other parts, is extraordinarily difficult. The system is especially vulnerable to the ripple effect, in which disruptions cascade throughout the system and are amplified by the architecture of the enterprise, and the bullwhip effect, in which local decisions are made without regard to the state of the global enterprise, causing catastrophic swings in inventory and readiness. Both of these failure modes are exacerbated by inadequate situational awareness driving operational decisions.
In contrast to the DoD, the commercial sector has achieved a higher level of functionality in its information systems, but the nature of the DoD problem is different: commercial systems are built on business processes that are largely demand-pull as opposed to planned supply push. Additionally, the integration of business processes, information systems, and data across the supply chain in the most sophisticated corporate environments makes causal reasoning and forecasting considerably easier. The nature of military logistics in a contested environment places a higher value on resilience and distributed operations than is economically attractive for many commercial settings, leading to fundamentally different system architectures. However, the commercial sector has matured and demonstrated agile execution concepts that unify information systems, business processes, and demand-driven distribution strategies that may apply to military settings.
“DARPA is exploring the flexibility of systems that can be composed by operators to meet varying mission needs as part of its Mosaic Warfare concept, which moves the enterprise from one that is ‘built to order’ with long response times and low flexibility to an agile ‘assemble to order model,’” Paschkewitz said. “This shift will require profound changes in inventory management, positioning, and logistics information awareness beyond the obvious changes in weapons systems and tactics. It will also require a different approach than commercial Just In Time (JIT) systems to have adequate resilience. A new logistics approach is required to viably compose and sustain a Mosaic fighting force, and information awareness is the critical enabler.”
DARPA is looking for potential proposers with expertise in leading-edge logistics information systems and analysis; knowledge in applying AI to resilient/adaptive supply chain management, supply chain due diligence; real-time awareness across heterogeneous logistics/supply systems; and distributed, probabilistic state estimation techniques on networks of networks.