When contracting with the Department of Defense, there are a few different acronyms that are hugely important to keep track of. IUID, UID, and UII may seem very similar–and are in fact often used interchangeably–but some important differences do exist between them.

  • IUID stands for “Item Unique Identification”
  • UID stands for “Unique Identification”
  • UII stands for “Unique Item Identifiers”

Understanding what these acronyms are specifically referring to will help you better understand how they are used and why they are so important.


The Department of Defense Item Unique Identification (IUID) Registry

The U.S. Department of Defense implements standards that require contractors and suppliers to apply a unique identifier in the form of a 2D barcode to qualifying items such as government property. The framework provided by these standards allows the DoD to efficiently acquire, track, maintain, and deploy assets by leveraging a unique identifier which provides visibility into an item’s current state of readiness.

A goal of the Department of Defense Item Unique Identification (IUID) Registry is to not only improve the quality of asset data but also the accessibility of the data. The Registry provides a repository for data regarding a particular item’s chain of custody throughout the world, but offers the ability to uniquely identify that item and separate it from every other item (either similar or dissimilar) in existence at any given time.

According to the Department of Defense, items that are submitted to the IUID Registry are those that meet the following criteria:

  • Government’s unit acquisition cost is $5,000 or more
  • Government’s unit acquisition cost is less than $5,000 when the requiring activity determines that item unique identification is required for mission essential or controlled inventory items
  • Regardless of value, if DoD serially managed item (reparable or nonreparable) or subassembly, component, or part embedded within a subassembly, component, or part
  • Regardless of value, if the Parent item (as defined in 252.211-7003(a)) that contains the embedded subassembly, component, or part
  • Regardless of value, if Warranted serialized item
  • Regardless of value, if Item of special tooling or special test equipment, as defined at FAR 2.101, for a major defense acquisition program that is designated for preservation and storage
  • Regardless of value, if its a High risk item identified by the requiring activity as vulnerable to supply chain threat, a target of cyber threats, or counterfeiting


Unique Identification (UID)

UID has been the term given to the physical mark, in the form of a 2D barcode, that individual items receive prior to submission to the DoD IUID Registry. This marking is completely unique and unambiguous within the Department of Defense and distinguishes the item in question and its relationship from other items and relationships within the registry at any given time. Each UID created can be used only once and is never to be repeated. The term “UID” is gradually being replaced by “IUID”, as it more accurately represents the compliance standards for the government’s requirements to track physical items such as personal property as opposed to people or real property.


Unique Item Identifier (UII)

The UII is the term given to the “license plate” or data representation of the IUID in a database such as the IUID Registry. The most important thing to understand about the DoD UII system is that this identifier must be globally unique and unambiguous, meaning that no other item of its type in the entire world can have the same identification information for the purposes of identification and tracking.

When tracking something using a UII, a machine-readable designation of characters or numbers (most usually a combination of both) is given to an individual item in order to separate it from any other type of item during transit. This helps provide both the Department of Defense and all contractors with a mechanism for tracking that item throughout all stages of the item’s lifecycle from cradle to grave.


Total Asset Visibility

The reason why IUID, UID, and UII are so important has to do with another acronym commonly used by the Department of Defense: TAV. Short for “total asset visibility,” TAV refers to one’s ability to view instant and accurate information regarding a particular item and any association with a container while in transit.

Total asset visibility guarantees that, at any given moment, a person should be able to view the precise location of an important item, how it has moved, the current status of that item, and exactly what that item is.

Total asset visibility and its required protocols were designed to not only streamline and increase the efficiency of supply chain management within the Department of Defense and all related systems, but also to help prevent things like theft, counterfeiting and more.

These unique identifiers–IUID, UID, and UII–are used to not only record the current whereabouts of an item at all times, but also to shed valuable insight into the condition of a particular asset as it exists within the Department of Defense’s logistics system.