Army modernization strategy news
Upcoming NIE To Focus On WIN-T 2, JTRS Manpack
And Capability Set 13
By Tony Bertuca, InsideDefense.com March 16, 2012 -
Army officials tasked with modernizing the service's battlefield communications infrastructure stressed last week that the most vital aspects of this spring's Network Integration Evaluation would include final operational testing of Warfighter Information Network Tactical Increment 2 and a digital manpack radio, as well as the validation of all the network gear headed into theater in 2013.
The upcoming NIE, which will evaluate dozens of systems for the network, is scheduled to begin at the end of April at White Sands Missile Range, NM, and Ft. Bliss, TX.
Meanwhile, industry is awaiting the publication of the Army's network integrated baseline architecture, which will set the technical standards companies can use to build products capable of plugging into the service's network. The architecture is expected to be issued by the Army G-6 sometime in April.
Col. John Morrison, director of LandWarNet Battle Command, told reporters on March 15 that the NIE has experienced some growing pains, but is moving toward standardization.
"There's a fundamental shift that has happened here," he said. "Instead of buying like we would back in the old days where we would buy a product and we would try to field it to the entire Army, we're now fielding against a snapshot in time. We're taking it in two-year blocks initially . . . but it's going to be more an annual look tied to our programming."
Morrison also responded to industry complaints that the Army has not provided vendors with enough feedback on the performance of their products in past NIEs.
"We know we've got to improve our feedback to industry . . . and provide a faster feedback mechanism," he said. "The 'agile process' is something that we are in the process of codifying. We have a standard operating procedure that is going through its final formal staffing at the senior general officer level."
Morrison also said the process had matured enough to begin giving industry greater lead time to perform research and development on potential products headed to future NIEs.
"The first couple NIEs probably looked a little short-term," he said. "We're starting to look deeper. We are already knee deep in planning for . . . the fall evaluation and even looking into that next spring. We are going to start communicating that to industry much more effectively."
Morrison said WIN-T 2 was the star of this spring's NIE because it was undergoing its initial operational test and evaluation ahead of a fielding decision next fall. The manpackable variant of the Joint Tactical Radio System is in the same boat, he added The upcoming NIE will also be the first time an entire brigade has been outfitted with all of the network gear that is scheduled to be included in Capability Set 13. "We're fielding an integrated network capability aligned against Army Force Generation requirements and that's how we're going to deploy capabilities out to the field," he said.
The spring NIE also marks the first time that classified information will be passed back and forth across the simulated battlefield network.
"This will give us our first ability to be able take a hard look at that," said Brig. Gen. Lee Price, the program executive officer for command, control and communications-tactical, or PEO 3CT. "Any time that we start to test something we have not previously done, we always find some surprises and that's what we're trying to prevent when we get ready to field."