RFID Marching Orders

By Bob Violino

An overview of the U.S. Department of Defense's RFID tagging requirements.

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The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which supplies the branches of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) with most of its food, clothing and material, has installed RFID readers at strategic distribution centers in San Joaquin, Calif., and Susquehanna, Pa. Beginning in January, companies that renew contracts or win new contracts that involve shipping certain commodities to those sites will be required by the contracts to attach passive UHF RFID tags based on current Electronic Product Code (EPC) specifications to all pallets, cases and certain items.

According to the final RFID guidelines released by the DOD in August 2004, military agencies and branches will include the tagging requirement in contracts for suppliers that ship packaged troop rations, clothing, individual equipment and tools, personal items, and weapons systems repair parts and components to the two DLA facilities.

New or renewed contracts that come into effect after Jan. 1, 2006, will require suppliers to put passive UHF RFID tags on cases and pallets of subsistence and comfort items, packaged petroleum, lubricants, oils, preservatives and chemicals, construction and barrier material, ammunition, and pharmaceutical and medical supplies shipped to 32 depots throughout the United States and to the DLA distribution centers. Beginning Jan. 1, 2007, contracts will be amended to require suppliers to tag all pallets, cases and individual items that currently require the U.S. military’s Unique Identification code and are shipped to any DOD location.

The DOD has specified that it wants suppliers to use passive tags operating between 860 MHz and 960 MHz with a minimum read range of 3 meters (about 9 feet). The department will initially accept Class 0 64-bit read-only tags, Class 1 64-bit read-write tags, Class 0 96-bit read-only tags and Class 1 96-bit read-write tags. As second-generation EPC tags become available, the DOD will gradually phase out use of Class 1 and Class 0 tags.