Army Officials Study NIE's Lessons

Service plans increased outreach to industry

Now that the first year’s worth of evaluations done under Army’s Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) is complete, a panel of experts recently discussed what was learned and where the service will go next year.

The Army sought to answer with the NIE how to modernize its network in a sustainable fashion, Maj. Gen. James Walton, the Army’s chief integration officer, said at AFCEA’s Army IT Day in McLean, Va., on Dec. 14.

The NIE was developed to fast track technologies to the Army’s active force and to work out any complications under operational conditions before they affect deployed troops, Walton said. The evaluation also seeks equipment and systems to fill capability gaps that include fused information, mission command-on-the-move capabilities and sharing and displaying contextually relevant material, he said.

Other areas that need work are developing digitally integrated mission parameters, tailoring network resources to dynamically adapt to a commander’s needs, and conducting cyber and electronic missions and operations. “The NIE is intended as a place to come up with solutions,” he said.

The NIE also allows the Army to execute and integrate its network capability sets by acquiring equipment that meets the service’s guidelines, said Col. John Morrison, director of the Army’s LandWarNet Battle Command. A key part of the NIE is that the Army is fundamentally changing how it acquires and fields its network capabilities. “We’re going to buy what we want, when we need it,” he said.

Coinciding with the decision to revamp its acquisition process is a move away from research and development of networking technologies. Instead, the Army is focusing on acquiring mature technologies, Morrison said.

With the second NIE complete and the service preparing for the next event in spring 2012, Morrison added that the goal for future events is to include the other services. The Marine Corps participated in the most recent NIE and the Marines and the Air Force will attend the upcoming evaluation, he said.

The NIE is also promoting several new Army concepts such as its Common Operating Environment and its Agile Acquisition process, said Terry Edwards, director of system of systems engineering at the office of the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. The service is also making it easier for industry to participate in the event by streamlining the number of contacts necessary for firms to enter technologies into the NIE. However, he said there is still a need to create a repository that would allow industry to access requirements and other NIE-related data.

About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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