ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - The U.S. Army Evaluation Center awarded 46 Soldiers and civilians for their outstanding performance in support of groundbreaking testing that will fundamentally change the way capabilities are delivered to the Soldier during a town hall meeting at the Post Theater Aug. 2.

David Jimenez, director of the U.S. Army Evaluation Center, and DTC Command Sgt. Maj. Carlton Handy presented the awards.

Network Integration Evaluation
The Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) is the first in a series of semi-annual evaluations designed to integrate and mature the Army's tactical network. The first event was conducted over a six-week period in June and July, and involved 3,800 Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division. Its purpose was to conduct parallel limited user tests of several Army programs of record and to less formally evaluate developmental and emerging network capabilities. The exercise also assessed non-networked capabilities. The 2011 exercise was the first of this type of combined test and evaluation and demonstrates the Army's holistic focus to integrate network components simultaneously in one operational venue.

The NIE exercise took place at the Fort Bliss, Texas, White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. It was the largest event of its kind undertaken by the Army.

Noting that AEC is the largest evaluation organization in the Army, Jimenez praised the knowledge, professionalism and expertise of the Soldiers, civilians and contractors of Army Test and Evaluation Command organizations.

During a question-and-answer session after the ceremony, Jimenez discussed NIE and what it means to the Army.

Why are AEC employees being recognized?
Jimenez: We are recognizing AEC efforts in the Network Integration Evaluation test exercise and for their contribution to the team ATEC participation in the exercise. The exercise, which ran for six weeks, was the first structured effort to test, for the record, systems of systems in a realistic environment with Soldiers. We observed Soldiers using the systems, elicited direct feedback and measured performance. Two of our exceptional employees, Dr. Thomas Cao and Neil Brown, received four- star notes and coins from General Martin Dempsey, the Army Chief of Staff. Both were extremely surprised and [will] cherish the well deserved recognition. Moments like this really define a career of dedicated service.

How many systems participated in the exercise?
Jimenez: Thirty-five. Six systems underwent a Limited User Test (LUT), and 29 were considered systems under evaluation (SUE). We collected information on each and issued SUE reports two weeks after test completion. Operational Test Command issued an overall network assessment and LUT reports will soon follow. It was a great learning experience. We gained useful insights and will continue to grow. The "Triad" of ATEC, PEO-Integration and the Brigade Modernization Command made this event a success. We worked together effectively.

How will you continue to "grow"?
Jimenez: This exercise has shown us that there is a lot of learning to be gained from systems-of-systems testing with Soldiers. That said, we still must improve our methodologies to get systems programmatically aligned and into test. Also we will get more efficient as we go " streamlining data collection, reduction, report writing and assessing how individual systems' measures of performance should be weighed in systems-of-systems environments. We'll no doubt have a better test event with more efficient use of our resources next time.

How are you doing that?
Jimenez: We've taken to heart continuous process improvement and are applying the lessons learned from this exercise to the next. Under [ATEC commander] Major General Dellarocco's guidance, all the senior leadership at ATEC is on the path to becoming Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belts. Right after the NIE, we held a Process Improvement Selection Workshop dedicated to learning what NIE told us about processes and procedures. Everything was on the table, and out of that we initiated a number of actions; rapid improvement events, "just do its" and formal projects to be more efficient going forward.

You've been known to talk about the future of Test and Evaluation. What thoughts have you shared?
Jimenez: Remember I've been a part of ATEC for just 8 months. I've been blessed however to have been the director of two of its major subordinate commands in that short time. But I will share what I've observed and the small thoughts I have. First, we have great people, witness today's event. All these folks gave an outstanding performance at NIE. They were great partners, coworkers and brethren to the other NIE participants, Brigade Modernization Command, Operational Test Command, the Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division and PEO-Integration. The pace of the activities in NIE was not easy and it did not end out at White Sands Missile Range. Data analysis and report writing continued after they returned to their home station, with quality report products published online two weeks after the exercise. We are capturing the process we used and applying it across the board on the products AEC generates for the Army. Granted two weeks will not be likely across the board; however we look to make marked improvements on how we staff and generate our products.

Second, I read a great article in "Wired" magazine recently: "The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete." We are living in the petabyte age. Some of our network testing and live-fire events generate terabytes of data each that needs to be collected, stored, reduced, analyzed and [have] evaluations on performance inferred from it. If you spend a day on any of our ranges, you will be absolutely amazed at the capabilities of the command to understand performance of the Army's systems. From understanding blast effects via extremely high speed video, to telemetry analysis, to network traffic behavior or vehicular dynamics, we have the instrumentation and top shelf personnel talent to provide Army leadership the answers they need to make decisions. That said, exercises like NIE show that we need to move forward in our thinking of how we build upon understanding system behavior toward understanding systems-of-systems behavior. With that we'll no doubt need to improve on tools and models. Also we need to move quicker on developing simulations that will allow us to understand systems-of-systems behavior on a larger scale economically.

What do you mean by 'economically'?
Jimenez: Well, bringing out an entire brigade of network equipment to the field is expensive in both human capital and in acquiring systems for test. We could perhaps, with high performance computers, supplement the real equipment with virtual instances of them, greatly expanding learning early in a program's lifecycle what behavior can be expected from systems-of-systems on a larger scale. Being here at APG with our new tenants has really created opportunities to collaborate further on these matters. Already we have a vibrant dialogue with the C4ISR community at CERDEC, PEO-I, PEO-C3T and IEWS.

What kinds of dialogue?
Jimenez: Well, for example, we have the one of the world's premiere antenna test ranges at Electronic Proving Ground, on Fort Huachuca, Arizona. CERDEC " Space and Terrestrial Communications has extremely good antenna co-site and performance modeling. Working together, they have the potential to save lots of time and effort in predicting and validating the radio frequency performance of our fleet of vehicles.

In other instances we've had dialogue on radar systems testing, instrumentation, network environment stimulation and others, and moving out on initiatives. It's great when you are in one community on the post and can get to know each other. On another front, collection of live performance data from the field is opening up a whole world of data that feeds analysis of real life performance for the development of new systems. Our Aberdeen Test Center and AMSAA (Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity) have made great strides in understanding how equipment is actually used in the field. Instead of modeling Operational Mission Summary/Mission Profiles, we are entering the age where actual "use" data will help us set equipment requirements closer to how the field is using the systems and improve system performance. I mentioned before that this could be considered the Petabyte age. Real life data will trump models in some cases.

Do you think that close interaction will help AEC in its mission?
Jimenez: No doubt the Army is to benefit. I keep pushing our ATEC System Team chairs to make friends in the C4ISR community similar to the great long relationships we've enjoyed with the survivability, lethality and reliability analysis communities for years. Being able to go over to a lab and see the equipment first hand is changing the dynamics of evaluation. Close interaction among the new APG communities and deep understanding of new technology earlier by the evaluation community will reap great benefits, some of which I can't quantify yet but I know are coming.