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Expedia-style system helps Marines get cargo to the fight

Dec. 6, 2013 - 04:14PM   |  
By HOPE HODGE SECK   |   Comments
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Marine logisticians can now use the same technology that civilians use to book a vacation to transport cargo faster and more efficiently.

The Transportation Exploitation Tool will look familiar to users of such popular websites as Kayak and Expedia. And the concept is the same, said its inventor, Greg Butler, a retired Marine officer who now directs the Fleet Movement and Systems Support Division within Naval Supply Systems Command.

His award-winning Naval Logistics Integration system tracks cargo aircraft from all of the sea services — the Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard — allowing logisticians to match needs with assets, conserving costs and saving time in getting gear where it needs to go.

Until the system launched as a prototype in 2010, Butler said cargo movers couldn’t see what space might be available on another service’s or network’s aircraft, Butler said.

“There wasn’t a mechanism for us to easily identify where that excess capacity was, and that was a problem,” he said.

That began to change in 2009, and the impetus was a high-profile logistical nightmare.

When a Navy submarine and amphibious transport dock collided in the Strait of Hormuz, causing extensive damage that included a ruptured fuel tank, it took 12 people three weeks of constant work to send out the 17 aircraft needed to supply parts for the repairs. That level of effort was unsustainable, Butler concluded, and he began to think about how the system could be improved.

An early success for TET and Butler’s “Lifts of Opportunity Program” came in 2011, when Navy logisticians used the system to locate a nearby available cargo plane and expedite the shipment of a 1,000-pound repair part to a warship in less than 24 hours — 30 hours faster than the normal resupply process. More recently, Marine Corps Logistics Command used the process to move assets to units in the U.S. 5th Fleet region more efficiently.

While the Marine Corps has not yet made as much use of the system as the Navy, Butler said his project now has some powerful boosters in the Corps, including Lt. Gen. William Faulkner, head of installations and logistics.

“That’s one of those ones that was staring you right in the face,” Maj. Gen. Michael Dana, assistant deputy commandant for installations and logistics, said during a September interview with Marine Corps Times. “Why weren’t we doing that before?”

An improved version of the system, overseen by the Office of Naval Research, will be demonstrated at the Corps’ next expeditionary logistics war game in spring 2014. And other services are beginning to show interest in the technology, Butler said.


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