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Anatomy of an NSN

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Apr 29, 2020 @ 14:04 PM


Any contractor who has done business with the Department of Defense has surely seen the 13-digit numeric code used to identify a product as a standardized material item of supply. Known as NATO Stock Number, National Stock Number, or simply as NSN, this code is used by all countries in the NATO treaty, including the United States Department of Defense. Considering the sheer volume of items in the inventory of the DoD, let alone all other NATO treaty countries, the development of a 13-digit code to catalog all these items was no small feat. The following article takes a closer look at the history of the NSN, what its different components mean, and how this number is able to perform the massive task for which it was developed.

The NSN is the descendant of a long line of cataloging systems used by the United States government. In 1930, the US Army Ordnance Corps developed the Standard Nomenclature List as an index for general ordnance supplies, ammunition, weapons and other items. The US Army Quartermaster Corps, as well as the medical departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force each had their own systems to catalog items. Over the years, it became obvious that an inter-service system that could help manage items for all branches of the military would be useful. The Army-Navy Munitions Board was created to fill this need but was put on hold during the Second World War. After the war, the entity was reactivated and renamed the Defense Munitions Board, which created the Cataloging Agency in 1947. This subordinate organization was conceived to manage the Joint Army-Navy Catalog System. To do so, it used a unique 11-digit code assigned to each individual item. The code was eventually referred to as a Federal Stock Number (FSN), and it became the official codification system of the US military when the Defense Cataloging and Standardization Act was passed in 1952. Eventually, the FSN required an update and was replaced by the NSN in 1974.

Every NSN consists of 13 digits; a four-digit NATO supply classification group code, followed by a nine-digit national item identification number (NIIN).

The NATO supply classification group is comprised of the NATO Supply Group (the first two digits) and the NATO Supply Class (the second two digits). The Supply Group provides the general type of item (aircraft vs. construction machinery, etc.), while the Supply Class provides more detail of similar items in the group (fixed vs. rotary wing aircraft, excavators vs. cranes, etc).

The NIIN makes up the final nine digits of the NSN. The first two digits of the NIIN are the country code, used to identify the country that was the first to codify the item (and usually also the country of final manufacture). Each of the 29 NATO member countries, as well as the 34 NATO-sponsored countries, have their own unique country code. To recognize it as the inventor of the system, the U.S. received the 00-10 country code. The final seven digits of the NIIN are known as the non-significant number, and represent a random, unique code number for a specific item in that particular county code’s inventory. Once assigned, non-significant numbers are never reused or changed. The first three digits are the “interfix” number, indicating the batch where the item came from, and the final four digits make up the unique code of that specific item.

As a testament to its effectiveness, the NSN is still in use today and continues to help catalog and organize the incredible amount of equipment and supplies that is used by NATO countries across the world. But while it plays a significant role in the DoD supply chain, it can be a complicated element to manage for your business. The Odyssey platform can help make it easy to manage data and print labels from one solution.

Do you have more questions about the way the DoD does business? If so, Odyssey can help! To learn more, or for any other inquiries about our products and services, contact us.

Topics: Data Security, DoD, Odyssey DCS, department of defense, dod commerce solutions, NATO Stock Number, NSN

DoD Commerce Trends- What to Look Out for in 2020

Posted by James Lusk on Mon, Apr 6, 2020 @ 11:04 AM

2020 DoD Commerce Trends

Government contractors are no strangers to rapid change. Often driven by new legislation, emerging technology or worldwide trends, adapting to a constantly changing landscape is the cost of doing business with the U.S. Government. But besides being flexible, looking ahead and predicting upcoming trends can help contractors better align their businesses with what’s to come.

Buckle down on Cybersecurity

Winning contracts will require strict cybersecurity verification in 2020. Version 1.0 of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) was introduced by the DoD in January, and contractors should expect to see CMMC requirements as part of requests for information as soon as June 2020.

CMMC provides a framework for the DoD to assess and enhance the cybersecurity posture of the Defense Industrial Base, ensuring appropriate levels of cybersecurity practices and processes are in place. CMMC will encompass multiple maturity levels that range from “Basic Cybersecurity Hygiene” to “Advanced.”

Contractors will coordinate with an accredited third-party commercial organization for CMMC certification, which will be based upon the contractor’s ability to demonstrate maturity in their capabilities and organizational maturity to the satisfaction of the certifying party. All companies, including subcontractors, will need to obtain CMMC certification.

It's a big year for the little guy

The FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which specifies the budget, expenditures and policies of the DoD, has passed- allocating $738 billion to the United States military.

Of the many implications, small business should take note of the expansion of the definition of “Disadvantaged Small Business Concern.” This permanently authorizes the DoD’s Mentor-Protégé Program, intended to increase participation of small businesses by encouraging mentorships with DoD contractors.

The Small Business Act has also been amended to require the Small Business Administration to report information regarding “best-in-class” awards to small businesses in its report to the president and Congress. 

In additional, 2020 marks the year that new legislation kicks in, classifying the small business designation by basing it on an average of earnings over five years instead of three. This will have significant impact on how small-business contract competitors are evaluated.

Contract consolidation 

The General Services Administration ushered in the new fiscal year by releasing its new consolidated Multiple Award Schedule contract. The contract takes the 24 different multiple GSA award schedules and consolidates them into one schedule with 12 categories. This new contract is designed to allow contractors to operate one single contract with one set of requirements, rather than juggling the needs of multiple contracts if they provide multiple products or services.

According to the GSA, reforming the schedules will improve customer service, make it easier for small businesses to access the schedules program, reduce duplication for all vendors, and allow GSA workforce to focus on delivering solutions.

With so many changes in the works, don’t let maintaining compliance with shipping, packaging, labeling and data entry standards make you lose sight of fine tuning your business for future performance and securing new contracts. Odyssey can help.

To learn more about Odyssey, or for any other inquiries about our products and services, contact us.

Topics: Data Security, DoD, Odyssey DCS, department of defense, dod commerce solutions, CMMC, National Defense Authorization Act

Privacy and Data Security in the RFID Industry

Posted by Bo McMillan on Thu, Dec 3, 2015 @ 16:12 PM



If a list of buzzwords was to be created for 2015 (and surely there will be such a list), one of those words will no doubt be “security.” Granted, that particular word could come in a variety of forms: cybersecurity, data security, even data breach, privacy, etc. Large-scale data breaches like what happened to Target, and even our own government, have made people acutely aware of how easily information can be stolen and the need to keep it protected. That need certainly expands to the RFID realm as what we do literally involves specific information being packaged and shipped in easy-to-read labels.

            What Odyssey does then, in light of protecting sensitive information, is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand we seek to be a pioneer in the DoD RFID and smart label realm by using technology and methods, which streamline time, effort, and information for DoD vendors. In other words, the Odyssey software uses emerging technology to make life easier on our clients. That’s good, right? Of course it is. But the reverse of that is the fact that information, especially distilled information that’s meant to be moved easily, affords better opportunities for data to be stolen. We live in a world where efficiency isn’t enough. Privacy has risen to such a great importance that customers and companies are willing to forgo simplicity and efficiency in order to protect their information.

            At the risk of frightening readers out of passive RFID technology, it must be noted that our solutions to these risks will be outlined further in the post and that we consider the privacy of our information of the utmost importance. That being said, passive RFID presents a unique opportunity to those looking to get ahold of information in unauthorized manners. The difference in our passive tags, as opposed to active tags, is that passive tags lay dormant until picked up by a reader or scanner. That data is essentially sitting on the tag waiting to be read. DoD vendors tend to use short-range scanners in their warehouses that read these labels as they enter or exit their facilities, cataloging the boxes and pallets for appropriate tracking. Suppose, for a moment that an outside source, someone looking to steal a supplier’s data for malicious intent, were to use a long-range reader to activate a label and intercept data during shipment. Scary, right? Particularly since something like that doesn’t seem all that difficult to do. “Skimming,” as this is sometimes called, is the reason RFID-blocking wallets exist and are popular amongst travelers. With passive chips being embedded in credit cards, driver’s licenses and passports, those looking to protect their information are buying them up in droves.

            But what about our industry? What about DoD suppliers looking to ship their assets with absolute safety? Surely there are no wallets big enough to put pallets in. So what do we do? Well, several things actually. We believe that a multi-layered security approach is key to protecting our clients. We start by encrypting all data being sent from Odyssey servers, which blocks unauthorized outside access. Next, we ensure that the data on our tags acts as more as a key than a source of vital information. Essentially, the labels only contain a cage code and serial number. No personal information, etc. is included. If a malicious source did attempt to intercept any data from the tags they wouldn’t tell that source much at all. This “key” format, used by the DoD, means the labels simply unlock more information. That information is securely stored in iRAPT, which we have written about in the past.

            The privacy and security landscape is changing all around the world. Our goal is to be one step ahead of the trends, just like we do with technology in our industry. We consider client privacy one of the key services in the complete experience we’ve built with Odyssey’s software.


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Topics: RFID, Passive RFID, Data Security