This article was written by A2B Tracking’s President/CEO, Peter Collins. It was published in the December 2017 issue of the NPMA Property Professional magazine. To read the full article and learn about RFID Tracking for Military IT Assets – click here.
By Peter Collins
In the 21st Century we have seen an explosion in the growth of computers and digital equipment. We are living in the Information Age, and the effects can be seen across almost every aspect of our modern cultures, organizations and enterprises. The proliferation of computers and electronic communication devices in the past ten years has forever changed our expectations for how we communicate and how we gather information.
The US military has tried its best to fully embrace the Information Age. The modern warfighter now has an array of digital communication tools and equipment available to them from smartphones, tablets and laptops to night vision goggles and navigation equipment. The modern soldiers are supported by their command and control centers that have an even larger amount of fixed and portable digital tools and equipment at their disposal.
The development of these digital communications, navigation and information systems have been instrumental to the success of the modern US military. It seems likely that in the future there will only be more reliance on this kind of information technology (IT) equipment. The military, along with the rest of our modern society, is committed to utilizing computers, mobile devices and other IT assets that will give them the tools to do their jobs better and faster.
Of course, the downside is that all of this IT equipment comes at a cost. IT assets obviously incur an upfront cost that will hit the budgets; but even more importantly are the ongoing logistical costs. Congress mandates that the Department of Defense (DoD) maintain accountability on each and every asset in their possession. Tracking the location and movement of all computer equipment in any one of the military branches, let alone the entire armed services and the organizations that serve them, is a massive undertaking.
To further compound and complicate this issue, many of these computers and IT assets contain highly sensitive data and require storage in secure areas. Often this same digital equipment needs to be mission-ready — which includes being fully charged, operable, compatible and in a portable storage container for transport and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Maintaining frequent and regular accountability of the data and the storage devices, along with managing the location and the readiness of this equipment, is a major security issue along with being a formidable logistical challenge.
Many of the IT systems that the military uses rely on interoperability and thus there are computers with very specific configurations that are set to integrate with other devices. This level of system integration can complicate the process and increase the amount of labor required to perform an inventory.
Digital assets are often embedded in larger assemblies, and many times end up being very difficult to access. Unfortunately, even though they are a component or a subcomponent of a larger system, we still need to account for them. There is also a concern, in some circles, for authenticating the integrity of the hardware and to prevent the infiltration of counterfeit computer components into the supply chain.
The DoD has an enormous number of computers and digital equipment for which they are required to maintain accountability. Performing manual inventories on equipment at this scale of magnitude is difficult, time consuming and risky. Recording serial numbers with a clipboard or even with a spreadsheet is error-prone and very labor intensive. Add to this, the challenge that some of the assets needing accountability are embedded in a larger assembly or are in a storage container that requires opening — make a challenging process even more difficult.
In short, using a manual method to track IT assets is asking for trouble. The US military does not have the luxury to perform manual inventories on their digital equipment — there are just too many items and not enough time.
Being prepared for a DCMA audit is one of the greatest priorities of a government property manager. Preparing for an audit takes considerable planning. The risks of failing an audit are significant and could last years. If you’re organization is flagged as “high risk” by DCMA, audits become more frequent.