WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M., Oct. 26, 2011 -- With less than two weeks to go until the second Network Integration Evaluation, NIE 12.1, the Army is immersed in round-the-clock integration and training activities, incorporating both successes and key lessons learned from NIE 11.2.
NIE 11.2 was conducted in June-July 2011 and was the first large-scale event that both formally tested several programs of record and less formally evaluated networked and non-networked systems and technologies simultaneously, in a realistic, operational environment.
"The purpose of these NIEs is to further develop the Army's tactical network and integrate potential technologies and capability-gap solutions," said Lt. Col Erik Webb, product manager for the Program Management Office Capability Package of System of Systems Integration Directorate.
The semi-annual NIEs, conducted at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M., are designed to integrate and mature the Army's tactical network and establish the Integrated Network Baseline. This baseline will extend the network down to the individual Soldier, providing mobile mission command capabilities to leaders at command posts, on the move, and to dismounted Soldiers at the tactical edge.
A triad consisting of the Brigade Modernization Command, Army Test and Evaluation Command and System of Systems Integration Directorate will integrate and assess a host of capabilities and determine their implications across doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel and facilities, known as DOTMLPF, during NIE 12.1, taking place October-November.
Webb said NIE 11.2 produced valuable feedback on how to communicate with industry and with other programs of record within the program executive offices under the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, or ASA(ALT), to ensure the understanding of how those systems can integrate into existing Army capabilities and platforms, to include the 1,000-plus military vehicles involved in the NIEs.
Part of that understanding encompasses data obtained about the systems' connectivity requirements for increased functionality.
"We've incorporated the lessons-learned on how to bring in those systems [and] how to integrate those systems in to this upcoming NIE," said Webb.
NIE 12.1 will include 47 systems under evaluation and two systems under test -- the Rifleman Radio and the Soldier Radio Waveform, or SRW, Net Manager. The Rifleman Radio delivers network connectivity to Soldiers on the frontlines using SRW to transmit voice and data simultaneously. Some of those systems are part of the tactical network that is currently being developed within the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, said Webb.
There are also a number of stand-alone systems that are not part of the network, but fill a capability gap that address a particular area of concern, such as a counter improvised explosive device, added Webb.
During NIE 12.1, more than 3,800 Soldiers from 2-1 AD will operate the systems and employ them in various realistic combat scenarios in operationally relevant terrain designed to replicate the environment in Afghanistan.
"The role of the Soldier is to receive the systems, undergo new equipment training and become proficient in the operation of the systems," said Webb.
The evaluation process addresses capability gaps and affords unit leadership the opportunity to become familiar with the employment of those potential systems, added Webb.
One of the challenges of military acquisition is the amount of time required to deliver capabilities to Soldiers. An overarching element of the NIEs is the adoption of an Agile Process that looks to shorten that time frame for materiel acquisition significantly, said Webb. Integrating industry solutions through the involvement of industry partners' participation in the semi-annual NIEs is expected to significantly accelerate the time required to bring a materiel system from concept to fielding.
"What makes all of the network integration evaluations unique is the speed at which the Army can bring industry into the process for the first time," said Webb. "Their participation is critical in finding the best technologies that have the potential to provide capability gap solutions to our force."