For the first time, the full cycle of the Army’s Agile Acquisition process is in place incorporating Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 12.2, something the service expects will save time and money and allow it to keep up with technology change as well as accelerate network modernization, officials said.

“All capabilities went through the laboratory assessment prior to entering the NIE, which allowed us to do a lot of integration work at Aberdeen (Proving Ground, Md.),” said Paul Mehney, chief, Public Communications for Program Executive Office Integration. That directly related to the NIE here as lessons learned from the lab work lifted much of the burden from soldiers as they began integrating systems into their brigade equipment and allowed more robust training.

The NIE, a bi-annual event that has been in place about a year, is part of the six-phase Agile Process that identifies and prioritizes capability gaps and finds solutions.

This third NIE is focused on establishing a network baseline and aims to validate the connectivity, architecture and components of Capability Set 13, the first integrated group of network technologies expected to be fielded to Brigade Combat Teams starting in October.

At the Exercise Control Center here, Col. Michael Harris, Lead Integration Collection and Assessment for NIE Systems for Brigade Modernization Command, said the point is, “to make acquisition decisions, purchases and get to the field now,” systems to fill the high priority gaps.

At the same time, the Agile Process is a way for companies to show the Army what can be done. For example, Maj. Dan Hart, Lead Scenario Planner, said his display was showing Ringtail’s Common Tactical Vision product. “Ringtail is a 15-man company,” he said.  

NIE 12.2 is also conducting the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) for WIN-T Increment 2 and the Joint Tactical Radio System Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit (JTRS HMS) systems. Both WIN-T and JTRS HMS are General Dynamics [GD] products.

The Fort Bliss, Texas-based 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (2/1) began work on NIE 12.2 effort at Fort Bliss and at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., in mid-April and now is running tactical operational scenarios stretching and stressing the burgeoning network through the end of the month.

The evaluation completes June 8, followed at the end of June by a report from the Army Test and Evaluation Command. The Army will make acquisition decisions from that point.

The agile process begins as near term requirements are identified by the Training and Doctrine Command and Army headquarters based on operational need and the Army Network Strategy. For example, NIE 12.2 identified gaps that included: Multi-Channel Tactical Radio and Mission Command on the Move (MCOTM).

Then, the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition Logistics and Technology (ASA (ALT)) solicits White Papers from industry and others for potential solutions to those gaps. The solicitation has already gone out for NIE 13.1 to be held this fall.

Next, ASA (ALT) assesses candidates in a laboratory setting at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., examining technical maturity and network assessment. The results determine if the system moves forward.

Then Brigade Modernization Command (BMC) and ASA (ALT) prepare for the NIE and work out testing, training and integration plans.

That is followed by a Network Integration Rehearsal led by ASA (ALT) supported by BMC and the Army Test and Evaluation Command, a risk reduction for the NIE itself. This looks at the integration of systems physically within platforms but also in the network and fleet.

The NIE now under way looks for soldier recommendations on systems, concepts, and any changes required to the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities (DOTLMPF) to get the system properly into units and operations.

In the past, the Army has said that continued success of the NIE and agile acquisition process could lead to adding other capabilities to the evaluation and changing the NIE name to reflect a broader mission.