REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--In the military, test and evaluation is a serious business.

It can mean the difference between success and failure on the battlefield, between a system doing its job or causing chaos, between a Soldier losing his life or saving it.

And that’s why the test and evaluation community makes it a point to come together once a year in Huntsville during the Department of Defense sponsored Test Week to discuss issues related to test and evaluation, to build relationships within the government’s and industry’s test and evaluation community, and to consider the latest in testing hardware and software.

The nation’s military “cannot survive without test and test has come so far. Today, the Redstone Test Center is testing in state-of-the-art facilities,” Maj. Gen. Jim Rogers, commander of the Aviation and Missile Command, said during the welcoming ceremony.

As a commander in the field, “I was always assured that equipment given to my Soldiers were tested to standard and done right, and that made me feel very comfortable with relying on that equipment,” Rogers said. “The goal is to work together to be more effective and more efficient to support our war fighters in all services every day with what they need.”

That was the case June 13-17 when Test Week brought numerous testing industry experts to the Von Braun Center for presentations and group discussions. The theme for Test Week 2011 was “Test Support to the Warfighter in an Evolutionary Environment: Supporting Rapid Acquisition While Maintaining Testing Rigor.” This year’s conference included more than 135 exhibits and about 1,200 attendees.

Leading the agenda for the conference was keynote speaker retired Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a proponent for military test and evaluation.

“War fighters depend on weapon systems and capabilities that have been tested, that work as advertised and that save Soldier lives,” Giambastiani said.

Referring to submarine battles in the Pacific Ocean during World War II, Giambastiani recounted numerous flaws and malfunctions in torpedoes that thwarted U.S. attacks on enemy ships.

“Just think how different the war in the Pacific would have been with effective torpedoes … There were a number of lives, a number of submarines lost during World War II. One out of every four submariners died. We learned such a hard lesson with those submarine tornadoes.”

It is imperative, he said, that the acquisition community focuses on being responsive to operational needs by incorporating rapid acquisition processes.

“Acquisition must be adaptable to allow for robust testing while capabilities are delivered in a timely manner,” he said.

Since October 2001, the acquisition community has had to incorporate rapid acquisition processes so that weapon systems could be quickly adapted to the ever-changing threat of improvised explosive devices. In July 2004, the Secretary of Defense established the Joint IED Task Force to integrate the IED detection efforts of 132 agencies, departments, divisions and units.

“That was important to protect the war fighter and field capabilities as rapidly as we could,” Giambastiani said. “How could we field things quickly? We had to test at the best of our ability but do so in a rapid fashion …

“It was important for us to provide a boost to the Soldier in the field so they knew we were listening to them and working as fast as possible. Things weren’t perfect in many cases, but we brought tremendous capability to the field.”

Today, with declining and flat military budgets, there is concern for developing more effective ways to test equipment and to maintain testing facilities. Joint validation of system requirements will create efficiencies while also maintaining rapid deployment, the retired admiral said.

“We’ve got to be innovative in the ways we approach testing,” Giambastiani said.

“How do we make ourselves effective and efficient while at the same time keeping test on schedule? Will the test infrastructure be able to support the requirement and not slow down or increase cost? … We must be innovative, adaptable and realistic to allow us to continue to provide systems that protect our war fighters.”