News: Army provides network integration feedback to industry
WARREN, Mich. – The Army has recently completed providing detailed system feedback and assessments to industry partners that participated in the Network Integration Evaluation 12.1, which concluded in November 2011. As part of the Army’s continuous NIE feedback cycle to industry, the System of Systems Integration Directorate has released an assessment to industry participants that had Systems Under Evaluation in NIE 12.1.
“Providing feedback to industry participants who are dedicating their resources and time is a major part of the NIE process,” said Col. Dan Hughes, director of SoSI. “This feedback represents an integrated assessment based on information collected on each system’s participation in the 12.1 NIE by both Army Test and Evaluation Command, and the Brigade Modernization Command.”
During NIE 12.1, a total of 4,000 soldiers operating more than 2,500 vehicles were engaged over a 4,000-square mile area at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., geographically representative of Afghanistan. System data was gathered by more than 200 data collectors and supported by numerous instrumentation suites. Additional data was gathered during weekly focus groups with users and data collector/analyst teams and after action reviews (AARs). Soldier surveys were administered at the conclusion of the event and findings were reviewed during post-evaluation interviews with unit leaders, NIE analysts and system data collection managers. This robust collection effort helped the Army confirm findings, refine recommendations concerning continued development or fielding of each evaluated system and capture lessons learned to further improve the NIE process.
Launched in June 2011, the NIEs are semi-annual evaluations designed to quickly integrate and mature the Army's tactical communications network -- the service's top modernization priority. The events assess new network capabilities from government and industry with an operational brigade combat team to determine whether they perform as needed, conform to the network architecture and are interoperable with existing systems. The NIEs and Agile Process will allow the Army to field "capability sets" that provide integrated connectivity from the command post to the dismounted soldier, and update that equipment on a two-year cycle to reflect improvements in technology and changes in operational needs.
“Industry participation and integration with the NIE has played a key role in the Army’s progress toward modernization, allowing us to gain a greater understanding of how cutting-edge technology changes employment and operational concepts,” Hughes said. “As new applications become available, tactics, techniques, and procedures will continue to mature and extend the soldier’s access to information at the tactical edge of the battlefield.”
In support of NIE 12.1, SoSI led an Army team in evaluation of a total of 97 candidate systems that sought entry into 12.1. Broadly, candidates were evaluated against the Army’s defined capability gaps, on merits of technical maturity and how smoothly the system would integrate into the Army’s network baseline. From these candidate evaluations, 47 systems were selected to participate in NIE 12.1. Candidates that were not selected to participate in NIE 12.1 were offered the option of reconsideration for participation in the NIE 12.2 if the solution met capability gaps. NIE 12.2 is scheduled to take place in April-May 2012, and laboratory assessments and integration of candidate systems is currently taking place at Army labs in Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Md. and at integration facilities at Fort Bliss, Texas.
During an informative industry day held at APG in January, more than 275 industry representatives viewed facilities focused on radios, satellite communications, intelligence and the integration of tactical communications equipment onto various vehicle platforms.
Concurrent to finalization of NIE 12.2 integration, a sources sought notice to industry partners seeking to support the next NIE, NIE 13.1, was released in January. More than 140 white papers have been received by the Army and assessments of those systems are now beginning.
“We intend this process to be adaptive and agile, and the Army is committed to this evaluation and assessment construct as an enduring process,” Hughes said. “As we advance through this year’s NIEs, we intend to keep an open dialogue with our industry partners to ensure that this process is beneficial for both the Army and our partners, ultimately resulting in better end product for our soldiers.”