US DoD Turns to Blockchain for Disaster Relief

The US Department of Defense has become the latest government department to envisage a use for blockchain technology, highlighting its “enormous potential” for use in disaster relief.

The same technology that powers cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, the department identified several ways blockchain could have helped existing efforts in Puerto Rico, following the devastation of Hurricane Maria back in 2017.

The findings follow on from a meeting held in December by the Troop Support division of the Defense Logistics Agency, hosted by the Continuous Process Improvement office, to understand the ways in which blockchain integrations could improve similar aid missions in future.

CPI management analyst Elijah Londo said the transformative power of blockchain technology could be as significant as the Internet.

“The potential is absolutely enormous…Talk about blockchain, and you’ll hear experts comparing it to transforming trust or transactions in the same way the internet changed communication.”

“We’re researching the technology. We’re getting as smart as we can about what it is, what industry is saying about it, what the future might look like, how it applies to supply chains and how other industries are using it. We’re doing our due diligence.”

At present, the Defense Logistics Agency relies on central tracking of logistics and aid systems, creating communication issues around synchronising data and ensuring consistent information is available across supply chains.

With greater use of blockchain technology, more decentralised communications and data sharing could ensure more accurate, up-to-date information available to those who need it – thereby improving the efficiency and effectiveness of relief efforts at each stage of the chain.

Marko Graham, of the DLA Construction and Equipment unit, said this was one of the major advantages of using blockchain as part of relief efforts.

“This is where I can see where blockchain would have been a big help [in the relief efforts]. Flowing material specifications and tracking data from the manufacturer buying the raw materials to … getting the transportation and getting it on the barges.”

The move from the DLA comes at a time of increasing interest from government departments worldwide in blockchain and the potential efficiency and process benefits it can deliver across multiple use cases.



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