Defense Logistics: Better Strategic Planning Can Help Ensure DOD's Successful Implementation of Passive Radio Frequency Identification

GAO-05-345 Published: Sep 12, 2005. Publicly Released: Sep 12, 2005.
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Highlights

The Department of Defense (DOD) has had problems with tracking and identifying inventory for many years, most recently in Operation Iraqi Freedom. One of several tools DOD is using to address these inventory problems is radio frequency identification (RFID). RFID technology consists of passive or active tags that are attached to equipment and supplies that are shipped from one location to another. Although DOD did not begin official implementation of passive RFID technology until January 1, 2005, DOD has been using active RFID technology since the early 1990s and began developing policy and pilot testing passive RFID in 2003. As of January 1, 2007, all commodities, excluding bulk commodities, are to have passive RFID tags. Full implementation of passive RFID is estimated to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. This report (1) provides information on the status of passive RFID implementation, (2) addresses the extent to which DOD has developed a strategic approach for implementing passive RFID, and (3) highlights challenges DOD recognizes it faces in implementing passive RFID and any plans developed by DOD to mitigate these challenges.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) to expand its current RFID planning efforts to include a DOD-wide comprehensive strategic management approach that will ensure that RFID technology is efficiently and effectively implemented throughout the department. This strategic management approach should incorporate the following key management principles: an integrated strategy with goals, objectives, and results for fully implementing RFID in the DOD supply chain process, to include the interoperability of automatic information systems; a description of specific actions needed to meet goals and objectives; performance measures or metrics to evaluate progress toward achieving the goals; schedules and milestones for meeting deadlines; identification of total RFID resources needed to achieve full implementation; and an evaluation and corrective action plan.
Closed – Implemented
From 2014 thru 2017, DOD has issued Strategies for Improving DOD Asset Visibility as its strategic management approach. The Strategies create a framework to evaluate and integrate department-wide efforts to continuously improve asset visibility and to enable collaborative identification of sustainment and improvement opportunities such as process improvements enabled by automatic identification technology, including radio-frequency identification (RFID). The Strategies incorporate the following key management principles: (1) an integrated strategy with goals, objectives, and results for fully implementing RFID in the DOD supply chain process; (2) the interoperability of automatic information systems; (3) a description of specific actions needed to meet goals and objectives; (4) performance measures or metrics to evaluate progress toward achieving the goals; (5) schedules and milestones for meeting deadlines; and (6) identification of total RFID resources needed to achieve full implementation.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the secretaries of each military service and administrators of other DOD military components to develop individual comprehensive strategic management approaches that support the DOD-wide approach for fully implementing RFID into the supply chain processes.
Closed – Implemented
While each of the individual military services did not develop a single management approach to support the DOD-wide RFID policy as intended by this recommendation, they each have developed and implemented a series of implementing guidance and instructions over the past several years to support the DOD-wide RFID program. These various guidance and instructions for each service have collectively accomplished the overall intent of GAO's recommendation. Consequently, we are closing this recommendation as implemented.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics), the secretaries of each military service, and administrators of other military components to develop a plan that identifies the specific challenges impeding passive RFID implementation and the actions needed to mitigate these challenges. Such a plan could be included in the strategic management approach that we recommend they develop.
Closed – Implemented
In 2017, DOD updated the Strategy for Improving DOD Asset Visibility (Strategy), which identifies specific challenges impeding passive RFID implementation and the actions needed to mitigate these challenges. Specifically, the 2017 Strategy included improvement efforts for passive RFID. For example, in August 2017, the Navy completed an initiative that identified passive RFID technologies as a medium to improve asset tracking and inventory management efficiencies. The Navy developed an action plan that resulted in, among other things, increased inventory accuracy and a reduction in man-hours required to conduct inventory on Littoral Combat Ships. The 2017 Strategy identifies the challenges that adversely impact passive RFID implementation and identifies the actions necessary to mitigate them, allowing DOD to track progress in resolving such challenges.

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