Improving military logistics with secure collaboration and private clouds

14 February 2012 | Martin Slijkhuis, Public Safety and National Security Industry Lead, Microsoft Western Europe

Napoleon noted that an army marches on its stomach. Military organizations of all stripes also depend on trucks, ships and planes that rely on countless components to function properly. Both observations highlight how military logistics - and specifically keeping technology current and effective - form the foundation of mission success.

Large projects (a new helicopter, for instance) require massive supply chain ecosystems that span governments, military branches, and industry partners. Hundreds of companies providing products and services often participate in lifecycle processes that can last decades beyond initial development and deployment. The very size and complexity of the supply chain systems make keeping technology up to date a major challenge. 

By and large, the responsibility for overseeing product lifecycle logistics falls on the defense organizations involved in the project. But logistics management really shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the defense organization itself - the entire industry is deeply engaged to alleviate this burden.

A key means to both help defense organizations focus on mission success and tackle the complexity of 21st-century logistics is ensuring efficient and effective collaboration among all partners involved in the supply chain. Collaborative design, manufacturing, and maintenance projects for defense systems are pivotal for lifecycle support of complex systems. Such distributed projects require extensive data sharing between the many partners and suppliers who internally use different tools and information management systems. It boils down to who has access to what. Engineers need access to design elements, supply chain contractors need to know where spare parts are at any moment, etc.

Collaboration won’t move forward without properly defined access and privacy rules. Role-based access to information is essential to preserve national security and partners’ intellectual property. For instance, a repair shop or spare parts provider shouldn’t have access to the manufacturing design specs for a helicopter, for instance. The goal, then, is to make it easier for all partners to collaborate while ensuring only the right people have the right access to the right data.

This is where cloud computing comes in. We see incredible potential in creating a defense logistics collaboration environment within a secure private cloud infrastructure. Players within the supply chain could use a tool like Microsoft SharePoint to share critical information within a system capable of creating and managing federated identities. Transglobal Secure Collaboration Program (TSCP) standards for secure collaboration and Product Life Cycle Support (PLCS) standards (ISO 10303-239) provide a great foundation for managing and distributing authoritative manufacturing and maintenance data.

Through this vision, all government and industry partners could take advantage of operational and cost flexibility that cloud services offer, enabling them to streamline lifecycle management and make it more efficient and cost-effective.

Have a comment or opinion on this post or a question for the author? Let me know @MicrosoftPSNS or email us at safetyanddefense@microsoft.com.

Martin Slijkhuis
Public Safety and National Security Industry Lead, Microsoft Western Europe

About the Author

Martin Slijkhuis | Public Safety and National Security Industry Lead, Microsoft Western Europe

Martin advises defense, justice, and police organizations on emerging technologies for defense transformation and citizen safety architecture. This includes bridging knowledge transfer for governments developing strategies to address cyber threats.