2010 start for $650m Defence logistics system

A vision of providing the Australian Defence Force with one single logistics system to replace disparate systems operated throughout the massive organisation is set to go live by mid this year.
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor

A vision of providing the Australian Defence Force with a single logistics system to replace disparate systems operated throughout the massive organisation is set to go live by mid this year.

Around the turn of the millennium, audit reports drew attention to the problems of coordinating over 100 different logistic information systems. The difficulties had been highlighted by the deployment of Australian troops in East Timor.

The decision to create an integrated logistics system was born, with $650 million in funding earmarked for different build phases. The project would run until 2016.

After an initial planning phase to get a handle on scope, the development began. The first stage was to introduce a single system, including an interface into Defence's finance system for improved asset management, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Defence.

A contract was signed with Mincom in 2006 to replace Defence's former logistics system, the Standard Defence Supply System (SDSS), with new core software based on Mincom's Ellipse system. This phase, worth over $100 million, was set to be completed by late 2008, but that deadline was never met because of a "software development issue".

"In April 2008, delivery of JP2077 Phase 2B.1 was delayed due to a software development issue which was later resolved. JP2077 Phase 2B.1 software has been successfully delivered to a revised schedule," a Defence spokesperson said.

The transition to the new logistics system was a "significant change activity" that required a low risk approach, the spokesperson continued. The IT teams had to make sure that the new system integrates correctly with other associated systems. "In order to reduce risk to the stocktaking process, training program and the Defence financial accounts, JP2077 Phase 2B.1 will now go live in July 2010."

The next step is Phase 2B.2, originally expected to cost around $100 million, which will take the functionality delivered under the first phase of development and make use of it across the whole supply chain. Detailed design for this part of the project is set to start this month.

It was previously supposed to be finished by the end of last year, but Defence had decided not to start development until the core code for the first delayed phase had been finished, tested and accepted. This part of the project is now set to be finished in the first quarter of 2011.

One part of the project has been completed — an interim RFID asset tracking system was put into place in 2007. This deployment was, however, also delayed because of a software problem. It has since been deployed to key sites in Australia and the Middle East where it provided efficiency gains, according to the Defence spokesperson.

The item in the project with the largest budget (around $350 million) has yet to come. Phase 2D will tackle issues such as implementing common engineering and maintenance systems, creating enterprise-wide reporting capability, bringing the logistics system architecture in line with that of the Federal Government Chief Information Office and addressing security aspects.

The spokesperson expected government approval for this phase of the project to be obtained in 2013/2014, and the systems would be completed by 2017, stepping past the former 2016 finish date.

Although the overall logistics program was supposed to be $650 million, a Defence Material Organisation talks about the project on its site as a $700 million to $1 billion investment. ZDNet.com.au asked whether the budget had been raised. "Phase 2 of the project is a strategic program of work delivering capability against approved funding and budget. As projects are developed and refined over time a range of options are considered and explored, new approaches may become feasible, and scope and cost estimates are modified accordingly," the Defence spokesperson said.

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