By Lt. Col. Deanna BagueApril 16, 2014
FORT BLISS, Texas (April 16, 2014) -- Planning and training for Network Integration Evaluation 14.2 is well underway with the major events slated to start at the end of April and lead to the Joint Staff J-6 Bold Quest exercise.
NIE 14.2 will focus on joint and coalition force integration, and allow assessment of communications and network gaps, with joint and multinational partners, said Lt. Gen. Keith C. Walker, deputy commanding general, Futures, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
To align with the military's principle of "training in the way it fights," one NIE 14.2 goal is to implement joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational operations in a realistic setting to examine interoperability and integration through sharing and safeguarding the right information.
"The NIE has always been about the Army tactical network, and we've worked very hard so we can talk to each other," Walker said. "But the reality is, we don't fight alone as an Army. We fight as a joint force with our Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps partners. In fact, we fight as a combined force with our coalition partners."
Walker also wears the hat of director, Army Capabilities Integration Center.
Walker said taking advantage of Bold Quest, an exercise that the Joint Staff sponsors to work with coalition partners, is also cost-effective. Both events are scheduled to take place independently, and by bringing them together, the combination allows each to leverage the benefits of the other.
"When we have many of our coalition partners working with Bold Quest and they are also working with NIE, it creates a training opportunity right here at Fort Bliss for the First Armored Division to do a joint and multinational training exercise," said Walker. "For this NIE we'll have the first combined exercise in which the First Armored Division Headquarters will serve as a joint task force."
Walker, who is one of the former commanders of Brigade Modernization Command has seen the progression of the NIEs and acknowledges that the purpose of the NIE has evolved.
"When we first started doing Network Integration Evaluations, we were working to deliver a network in combat," Walker noted. "Now as we come out of Afghanistan, it's a different problem for the Army. It's delivering the network to the future force; a force with a much broader challenge than wide area security operations in Afghanistan. In the future, mission-command-on-the-move, which is a key part of our network requirements, is that much more important."
The way in which the NIE works with industry has matured, added Walker. He attended an industry day at Fort Belvoir after the last NIE, and said that industry has provided some pretty steady feedback.
"The consistent (commentary) from our industry partners is they want to get the feedback from the Soldiers as soon as they can," he said. "Now (Brig.) General John Charlton with the Brigade Modernization Command is implementing a new business practice that will start from NIE 15.1 and carry forward where we can give industry more focused capability gaps, better synchronized with Army program planning.
"And during this NIE, industry will be able to sit with Soldiers early on and get feedback directly from the Soldiers that use the systems, so I think that will be helpful in both instances with industry," Walker said.
Officials from BMC's Brigade Modernization Integration Division said NIEs continue to provide training opportunities as they leverage the live, virtual and constructive environment that affords units the opportunity to assess emerging capability sets while supporting scalable, distributed and blended training.
Across this environment, subject matter experts from TRADOC's Centers of Excellence, as well as system analysts from both BMC and Army Test and Evaluation Command, support an integrated analysis effort.
In an era of budget constraints and reduction of forces, Walker said he thinks the NIE will be more important than ever. When budgets are reduced, programs get cancelled or delayed, as seen in previous times, he said.
As a result, he said, the investment approach in research and development has shifted because the focal point can no longer be short term.
Walker said the NIE provides the chance to examine and evaluate some of the results of the research and investment dollars as the Army looks to future requirements. Getting Soldiers involved early in R&D efforts provides feedback to improve existing programs while informing less expensive doctrinal, organizational, training and leader development capability solutions, he said.
"With decreased budgets we can't afford not to do the NIE," said Walker. "We can't afford not to thoroughly evaluate capability solution candidates in a reduced budget environment."