The US Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which handles the supply chain for all five branches of the military as well as several federal agencies and international allies, held a two-day event in December to learn how blockchain could improve its processes.
It used recent hurricane disaster relief efforts as case studies – in particular, Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in fall 2017. And though the DLA press release calls the Hurricane Maria relief mission a success – it says that 41,000 power poles, 88.1 million meals, and 1,264 generators were provided – the Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) team nonetheless presented how blockchain might have improved relief efforts.
The DLA release points to blockchain's ability to provide trustless peer-to-peer validation on-chain for processes like ordering and delivery tracking. It also notes blockchain's potential for "improving transparency and auditability of agency transactions."
Currently for the DLA, processes are managed via the different agencies' centrally managed systems, creating obstacles to data visibility and synchronization for an agency like that DLA that's supposed to coordinate efforts. There are workarounds, but they're imperfect. For instance, the DLA's construction and equipment deputy director, Marko Graham, found that one "challenging point" in the communication for these relief efforts was the use of an internal spreadsheet that tracked items purchased from vendors and their eventual delivery.
The CPI team, which held the event, is currently performing its "due diligence" by researching blockchain. CPI analyst Elijah Londo said of the event's outcome:
"At the very least, it's a collaboration and knowledge share. And at its best, it's actual partnerships and pilot opportunities."
One might imagine the DLA taking on an obvious process failure in Hurricane Maria relief efforts that led to 20,000 pallets of bottled water becoming undrinkable before ever reaching needy citizens. Reducing waste may be a further example of where blockchain could replace outdated resource tracking systems and provide real-time, shareable records for efficiency.
Like many other companies and organizations, government or otherwise, the DLA is in the early stages of considering blockchain to improve its processes and create efficiencies. But it's cognizant that other countries' efforts are ramping up. The DLA release notes that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) plans to process half of government transactions using blockchain technology by 2021. It also says DLA has been talking to US Transportation Command, as well as shipping giant Maersk, both of which are already "experimenting with blockchain technology."