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Defense Department wants RFID tags on everything but sand

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The US Department of Defense has announced a sweeping policy to slap an electronic tag on every item in its inventory - well, almost every item.

By January 2005, the DoD will require all suppliers to place RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags on their goods. The feds hope this technology will help it keep track of massive inventories and improve transaction speeds. Government officials appear very bullish about the technology, but they do have limits on how far they are willing to take the RFID plan.

"RFID policy and the corresponding RFID tagging/labeling of DoD materiel are applicable to all items except bulk commodities such as sand, gravel or liquids," the DoD said in a statement.

Gravel suppliers rejoice.

To help contractors get up to speed on the new policy, the DoD will hold an RFID summit in February of 2004. It then plans to finalize the RFID strategy by June of 2004, giving suppliers plenty of time to tag their kit.

"This technology allows the improvement of data quality, items management, asset visibility, and maintenance of materiel," the DoD said.  "Further, RFID will enable DoD to improve business functions and facilitate all aspects of the DoD supply chain."

Many have questioned whether the benefits of RFID tags are worth the privacy baggage they bring. It may be nice for Wal-Mart or Dell to keep track of their inventory, but some consumers worry that the little hum in their razor might not always be used for the best of intentions. Why invite Big Brother in to watch you shave when the process is working just fine already?

In the case of the feds, however, it's comforting to think that they may be able to track those nuclear arms that go astray from time to time.

The Meta Group released a report earlier this year, saying that Wal-Mart's suppliers would find it almost impossible to tag all their goods by 2005. And this is with their largest volume customer breathing down their necks. What are the odds that the military complex can pull the same feat of in time? ®

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