A computer system deployed nearly two years ago to monitor the movement of
casualties out of a combat zone will be upgraded to make it compatible with
the Defense Department’s global transportation network.
The casualty-evacuation management software was developed in response to widespread
complaints following the 1991 Persian Gulf War that it was difficult to track
and locate wounded service members being treated at military care centers and
That frustrating lack of reliable information should not be experienced again,
said U.S. Transportation Command officials. In July 2001, the command unveiled
the TRAC2ES, or Transportation Command regulating, command and control evacuation
system, a Web tool that tracks and manages casualty evacuations and patient
movements. It was used in combat for the first time in Operation Enduring Freedom.
U.S. military units employed TRAC2ES to evacuate more than 1,600 U.S. and allied
casualties from the war in Afghanistan, said Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Bruce
Green, the Transportation Command’s surgeon, responsible for the operation
Green praised the system as a vast improvement over the antiquated technology
it replaced, which was incapable of handling large numbers of casualties. In
1997, the command awarded a $135 million contract to Booz Allen & Hamilton
for the development of TRAC2ES.
Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can access the unclassified
version of TRAC2ES, he said. The system also has classified features that require
The TRAC2ES software makes it easier to record information about casualties,
officials said. Having accurate data about patients, Green said, is critical
for the Transportation Command to keep track of their status.
In a typical scenario, commanders on the ground determine that casualties need
to be evacuated and transported to a medical facility. They phone the so-called
“patient movement requirement center,” a facility set up to support
a specific conflict. An air-evacuation team then is alerted about a possible
mass-casualty event. The center in turn has to separately request aircraft and
crews to transport those patients.
With the old technology, the process to coordinate an air evacuation used to
take at least several hours, for a single patient. With TRAC2ES, said Green,
it’s possible to arrange the evacuation of several patients within 45
The Transportation Command operates four patient movement requirement centers:
one is located at the command’s headquarters, at Scott Air Force Base,
Ill. The others are based at Ramstein Air Base, in Germany, and at Yokota Air
Base, in Japan. A mobile center currently operates in the Persian Gulf area.
Having these centers near the combat zone helps direct air-evacuation operations,
said Green. In Operation Enduring Freedom, he said, “we coordinated with
the airlift community so we could use the planes that were relatively empty
when they came back. “
The patient-movement requirements center receives requests for patient transport,
establishes the appropriate destination and mode of travel.
In addition to the four centers, the Transportation Command has “kits”
that can be used to turn planes into air medical facilities capable of treating
patients while in transit.
Despite the successful employment of TRAC2ES in Operation Enduring Freedom
and during domestic emergencies, the system has yet to prove its worth in a
mass-casualty conflict. TRAC2ES so far has met most Defense Department test
and evaluation requirements, except for user training and training manuals,
according to last year’s T&E report.
Training difficulties are to be expected in any new system that replaces older
technologies, said Lt. Col. James Baxter, a program manager for TRAC2ES. “There
was a learning curve and a training curve.” Further, he added, “changes
were made early on.”
One significant change had to do with the interoperability between TRAC2ES
and the Global Transportation Network. The GTN is a tracking system that monitors
the movement of military supplies and people around the world.
When the Transportation Command took over the responsibility for TRAC2ES in
1993, the plan at the time was to link it with GTN. But that would have required
expensive upgrades to GTN, which the Transportation Command could not afford,
said Baxter. “It was not cost effective to link the legacy GTN with the
new system,” he said.
The next generation of the global transportation network, called GTN-21, will
be made interoperable with TRAC2ES, Baxter said.
The GTN-21, scheduled to begin operations in 2005, will include a “one-way
interface” from GTN-21 to TRAC2ES, said Baxter. However, the first version
of GTN-21 will not provide a feed from TRAC2ES to GTN-21. “That piece
will be delivered post GTN-21 initial operational capability, either as part
of an incremental release, or as part of GTN-21 full operational capability,
at a date to be determined.”
The lack of compatibility between TRAC2ES and GTN was not just about the cost,
but also about political fiefdoms at the Transportation Command, according to
an engineer who worked on the program.
“It was a mistake for them allow TRAC2ES to be separate from GTN,”
he said. At the time that TRAC2ES got under way, disagreements about who would
be in control sprouted. “The planning group doesn’t want anybody
to tell them how to schedule their planes, and the medical group doesn’t
want anybody to tell them which passenger should go first,” the engineer
said. “Instead of working it out, the medical people decided they would
try to build their own.
“Unfortunately, they have to get the data from GTN and by the time they
are done getting the data, running the algorithm to figure out who should go
where and recommending to the scheduling people who should go where, the GTN
data has changed,” he said. The GTN information, particularly during wartime,
is in a constant state of flux.
In the end, he added, “the scheduling people end up taking the information
from the medical people and fitting it in the best they can.”
The upgrades needed to make GTN compatible with TRAC2ES indeed would have been
costly, the engineer said. The biggest reason was the proprietary nature of
the GTN technology, developed by Lockheed Martin. That technology was not designed
to interoperate with any other systems, without expensive reengineering changes,
The GTN-21 should be easier to integrate, because it will be built using open
software architecture, said program officials. The contractor for GTN-21 is
Northrop Grumman Corp.
The former TRAC2ES engineer said that making the system interoperable with
GTN-21 will not be easy and probably will be costly. “The plan is [technically]
realistic as long as they are willing to put forth the money.”