Army kicks off network exercise

By Program Executive Office IntegrationJune 9, 2011

Equipment stands ready for Network test
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. (Army News Service, June 8, 2011) -- The Army kicked off its largest network field exercise to date, with more than 3,800 Soldiers taking part.

It's Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, who will evaluate key network technologies over the next six weeks at White Sands as part of the network integration evaluation, or NIE. The event is designed to simultaneously test programs of record and assess a host of emerging network technologies, the services' senior leaders said.

"The network will literally redefine how we fight," said Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli. "Ultimately the network will connect leaders and Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines at all levels, at every echelon of command, in any information, in any formation, and across the entire team, with the right information quickly and seamlessly."

The NIE, which includes five programs of record going though formal tests and more than 30 emerging or developmental technologies under informal evaluation, is a key part of the Army's network strategy. The NIE is structured to assess the scope and readiness of emerging technologies and, in cases where appropriate, integrate new capability before sending it to Soldiers in combat.

At the heart of the exercise in an overarching effort to develop a single battlefield network able to connect dismounted Soldiers to other units in real time, linking them to command posts, vehicles on-the-move and higher headquarters. The idea is to use the best available technologies to move more information, voice, video, data and images faster, further and more efficiently across the force, Chiarelli said.

"The reality is these NIEs are as much about learning as they are about testing," Chiarelli explained. "After all, the only way to fix problems is to accurately identify them. Likewise, the most effective means for developing new, relevant doctrine and tactics is to conduct integrated network-enabled training exercises."

The NIE is aimed at refining the acquisition of new technologies and blending programs of record with commercial-off-the-shelf solutions as part of an agile process designed to keep pace with rapid technological change, Army leaders explained.

The NIE will provide Army testers and program managers the advantage of assessing how new and emerging technologies work in relation to one another from a "system-of-systems" perspective.

The NIE -- as well as subsequent exercises planned to take place on a semi-annual rotation -- are geared toward speeding up and improving the way new networking technologies are delivered to Soldiers in part by ensuring that the integration of new capability is properly solidified before items are sent into combat.

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