By Vanessa Flores, U.S. ArmyMarch 6, 2017
FORT BLISS, Texas (March 6, 2017) -- As the home of the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE), large-scale exercises that progress the Army's network through Soldier feedback, Fort Bliss is synonymous with modernization.
Now, after six years of making technological strides for Soldiers across the force, the NIEs are transforming to meet the Army's current mission by adding new venues and new units to the mix.
This summer at NIE 17.2, Soldier participation and feedback will come from a new test unit - Fort Campbell, Kentucky's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (2/101). The 2/101 will be the first of several rotating units participating in the NIEs and Joint Warfighting Assessments (JWAs; formerly the Army Warfighting Assessments), after the previously dedicated test unit, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, was reassigned for different missions. Although the formal NIE 17.2 event will still take place at Fort Bliss in July, lead-up training and integration activities are taking place at Fort Campbell with the 2/101.
"Now that we do not have a dedicated test brigade, there is an opportunity to gain a fresh perspective," said Col. Terrece Harris, director, Capability Package Directorate. "What we see happening here with Fort Campbell is how we will operate in the future. We will still be able to leverage the expertise and processes that we have developed at Fort Bliss from an NIE and JWA perspective. However, we will also be able to leverage some of the existing exercises that are going on in the respective locations of other units."
This new effort involves utilizing a combination of infantry, Stryker and armor units to fulfill the Army's modernization exercise goals. It will also give participating brigades training experience on capability sets they may be equipped with in the future. By rotating in different formations, the Army will be able to assess how different units use the tactical network for their unique mission sets.
Systems Under Test, including the WIN-T Tactical Communications Node-Lite (TCN-L) and Network Operations and Security Center-Lite (NOSC-L), and the WIN-T Tri-Band Line of Sight (TRILOS), will remain the main focus of NIEs. Preparation is currently taking place at Fort Campbell to accommodate the 2/101 ABN Soldiers. This includes working on phases such as platform integration, where engineers will be configuring the vehicles with radio and test equipment. This process will lead into the Golden Vehicle build, where prototype vehicles are built and used to replicate the fleet of vehicles for the exercise.
"Integration is going to be integration, no matter where we conduct the effort," said Harris.
Nearly half of the Capability Package Directorate (CPD) team is on site at Fort Campbell conducting the vehicle platform and integration design efforts. Simultaneously, they are proving their efforts are transportable and can be replicated at other units. The rest of the CPD team plans and prepares for the next few NIEs and JWAs, which now require more advance coordination under the new rotational construct.
"The Army is now having to plan for NIEs and JWAs four or five years out, and our team is aligning to meet that new norm," said Harris. "The biggest change for us is from a planning and coordination perspective to support NIE, JWA, and potentially leveraging both events to evaluate prototypes accelerated through the Army Rapid Capabilities Office."
Established last year, the Rapid Capabilities Office was set up to expedite critical technologies to the field, aiming to counter urgent and emerging threats, particularly pertaining to the areas of cyber, electronic warfare, survivability, and positioning, navigation and timing.
Going forward, the Army will conduct one JWA and one NIE annually. While the NIEs are designed to further integrate and rapidly progress the network, the JWAs provide a more experimental environment to help shape requirements and improve capabilities, with an emphasis on Joint and Multinational interoperability.