U.S. Army to field new network after NIE reaches ‘next level’

WASHINGTON — The Army’s strat­e­gy for enhanc­ing its tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work through large-scale, Sol­dier-dri­ven eval­u­a­tions con­duct­ed every six months has reached a crit­i­cal mile­stone as the ser­vice moves toward field­ing the net­work to deploy­ing brigade com­bat teams.

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The Net­work Inte­gra­tion Eval­u­a­tion, or NIE, 12.2 was the third and largest such event the Army has held to date, requir­ing the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Divi­sion, to assess the network’s per­for­mance while stretched across vast dis­tances and pun­ish­ing ter­rain at White Sands Mis­sile Range, N.M. Sol­dier feed­back and test results from NIE 12.2 will val­i­date and final­ize Capa­bil­i­ty Set 13, the first inte­grat­ed pack­age of tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions gear that will be field­ed to up to eight brigade com­bat teams start­ing in Octo­ber. The inte­grat­ed pack­age of radios, satel­lite sys­tems, soft­ware appli­ca­tions, smart­phone-like devices and oth­er net­work com­po­nents sup­port­ed 2/1 AD as the unit spread across the desert and moun­tains to com­plete its mis­sion.
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The Army’s net­work Capa­bil­i­ty Set 13, to be field­ed start­ing in Octo­ber, will deliv­er unprece­dent­ed con­nec­tiv­i­ty to the dis­mount­ed Sol­dier through the Rifle­man Radio, a two-pound radio car­ried by pla­toon-, squad- and team-lev­el Sol­diers for voice com­mu­ni­ca­tions that also links with hand­held devices to trans­mit text mes­sages, GPS loca­tions and oth­er data.
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The five-week Net­work Inte­gra­tion Eval­u­a­tion, or NIE, 12.2 in May and June served to val­i­date and final­ize the make­up of Capa­bil­i­ty Set, or CS, 13, the Army’s first pack­age of net­work com­po­nents, asso­ci­at­ed equip­ment and soft­ware pro­vid­ing inte­grat­ed con­nec­tiv­i­ty from the sta­t­ic Tac­ti­cal Oper­a­tions Cen­ter, or TOC, to the com­man­der on-the-move to the dis­mount­ed Sol­dier.

The CS 13 net­work, Army offi­cials say, will give U.S. forces a sig­nif­i­cant advan­tage over adver­saries by enhanc­ing sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness, improv­ing maneu­ver­abil­i­ty, speed­ing deci­sion cycles and con­nect­ing Sol­diers at the low­est lev­el with one anoth­er and their high­er head­quar­ters.

“This allows us to have a greater com­mu­ni­ca­tions capa­bil­i­ty at every ech­e­lon — from indi­vid­ual Sol­dier to the bat­tal­ion to the brigade com­bat team,” said Col. Dan Hugh­es, Army direc­tor of Sys­tem of Sys­tems Inte­gra­tion. “They have com­mu­ni­ca­tions that we nev­er envi­sioned 10 years ago.”

With three NIEs now accom­plished, the Army has estab­lished an inte­grat­ed net­work base­line that will serve as the foun­da­tion for addi­tion­al capa­bil­i­ties to be added as tech­nol­o­gy pro­gress­es. The NIE has also put in place a sys­tem­at­ic, Sol­dier-dri­ven approach to assess­ing net­work capa­bil­i­ties and deter­min­ing their impli­ca­tions across doc­trine, orga­ni­za­tion, train­ing, materiel, lead­er­ship, per­son­nel and facil­i­ties, known as DOTMLPF.

“When you bring those two things togeth­er, we’re real­ly start­ing to see the matu­ri­ty of the NIE,” said Brig. Gen. John Mor­ri­son, direc­tor of the Army G-3/5/7 Land­War­Net-Bat­tle Com­mand Direc­torate. “This NIE real­ly turns the cor­ner to where we start tak­ing it to the next lev­el.”

Insights gained dur­ing the NIE in areas such as train­ing and tac­tics, tech­niques and pro­ce­dures, known as TTPs, will be essen­tial as the Army begins to field Capa­bil­i­ty Set 13 in Octo­ber, Mor­ri­son said. Equip­ping the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Divi­sion — the unit that exe­cutes the semi-annu­al NIEs at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Mis­sile Range, N.M — with CS 13 also pre­pared the Army to inte­grate, train and field the equip­ment to deploy­ing brigades.

“The NIE con­struct is doing what we want it to do,” Mor­ri­son said. “I can’t empha­size enough bring­ing the Sol­dier into the process ear­ly, because it’s allowed us to shape deci­sions the Army is mak­ing. And now as we get to field the capa­bil­i­ty set, we’ve got TTPS that are already being estab­lished, we’ve got smart, informed deci­sions because we ran the equip­ment through oper­a­tional paces. All the lessons-learned with actu­al­ly field­ing to a unit have been learned, and we are well pos­tured head­ing into the fall to field this capa­bil­i­ty.”

NIE 12.2 was the largest NIE accom­plished to date and was the first full brigade-lev­el val­i­da­tion of CS 13 net­work archi­tec­ture con­duct­ed in a hybrid threat envi­ron­ment. NIE 12.2 also accom­plished three pro­gram tests for record and eval­u­at­ed 35 gov­ern­ment and indus­try Sys­tems Under Eval­u­a­tion, or SUE.

The NIE com­plet­ed the Warfight­er Infor­ma­tion Net­work-Tac­ti­cal, or WIN-T, Incre­ment 2 Ini­tial Oper­a­tional Test and Eval­u­a­tion, or IOT&E, and marked sig­nif­i­cant vehi­cle inte­gra­tion across the brigade com­bat team, or BCT, with more than 350 vehi­cles inte­grat­ed with CS 13 base­line sys­tems, includ­ing Infantry BCT, Stryk­er BCT and Armored BCT plat­forms.

While offi­cial results from NIE 12.2 will be released in the com­ing weeks, the Army is already apply­ing emerg­ing insights from the exer­cise to make any nec­es­sary tweaks to CS 13, Mor­ri­son said.

In par­al­lel to the CS 13 field­ing effort, the Army has also begun risk reduc­tion activ­i­ties in lab­o­ra­to­ries at Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground, Md., in prepa­ra­tion for NIE 13.1 this fall. By repli­cat­ing the NIE net­work in the lab envi­ron­ment, engi­neers can resolve inte­gra­tion issues before sys­tems get to the field — reduc­ing test costs and allow­ing Sol­diers to focus on the fight instead of the tech­nol­o­gy behind it. The lab activ­i­ty also ben­e­fits indus­try by allow­ing com­pa­nies to plug their sys­tems into the holis­tic Army net­work and dis­cov­er any inter­op­er­abil­i­ty chal­lenges before Sol­diers encounter them dur­ing NIE.

Indus­try inter­est in the NIE con­tin­ues to grow, with 43 com­pa­nies seek­ing to par­tic­i­pate in NIE 12.1, 105 com­pa­nies seek­ing to par­tic­i­pate in NIE 12.2 and 146 com­pa­nies seek­ing to par­tic­i­pate in NIE 13.1 this fall.

Eval­u­at­ing mul­ti­ple indus­try solu­tions to capa­bil­i­ty gaps will allow the Army to obtain emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies at a low­er cost — a more effi­cient approach to acqui­si­tion as the Army aims to bal­ance bud­get cuts with crit­i­cal mod­ern­iza­tion needs. To date, the NIEs also have yield­ed more than $6 bil­lion in cost sav­ings and cost avoid­ance from the restruc­ture of Army pro­grams and the con­sol­i­da­tion of test prac­tices.

“We’re get­ting more effec­tive and we’re get­ting more effi­cient,” Mor­ri­son said.

Press release
U.S. Army