The ‘Bosses’ of NIE: Army Acquisition Officers Are Key to Success of Network Integration Evaluations
In the months since the Army concluded its second Network Integration Evaluation, NIE 12.1, in November 2011, hundreds of Soldiers, engineers, developers, and program managers have remained at Fort Bliss, TX, and White Sands Missile Range, NM, to complete vehicle integration design work, de-install 12.1 platforms, integrate the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical test platform, and participate in new equipment and field training exercises, all in preparation for NIE 12.2.
NIE 12.2, taking place in April and May, is the third installment in a series of semiannual evaluations designed to integrate and rapidly advance the Army’s tactical network. In the first two evaluations, the Army brought together the test, acquisition, and doctrine communities to test and evaluate the network in a completely integrated fashion, demonstrating the Army’s holistic focus on integrating network components simultaneously in one operational venue.
Decisive to the NIEs’ success are a group of Army officers gathered from across the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ASAALT), who are known as the “Trail Bosses.” They coordinate across members of the TRIAD, which manages the NIEs—the Brigade Modernization Command, U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, and ASAALT’s System of Systems Integration (SoSI) Directorate—and across the full spectrum of functional disciplines supporting the NIEs. They are well-versed in networked operations and operational vignettes, data collection, and hardware and software troubleshooting.
The Trail Bosses are field-grade Army acquisition officers whose traditional roles and scope of work have been transformed to support the NIEs. Each Trail Boss and respective team serves as SoSI’s primary interface among multiple product management offices, integrated product teams, industry representatives, and the six battalions in the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD). In NIE 12.1, the six Trail Bosses managed teams of 8 to 10 people, with interface to another 20.
The 3,800 Soldiers of 2/1 AD provide invaluable feedback to the acquisition community about the systems undergoing test and evaluation, ultimately leading to better capabilities getting into the hands of deployed troops faster and more often.
Trail Bosses are the conduit between their assigned 2/1 AD battalion and a workforce of engineers, logisticians, testers and evaluators, and industry partners to ensure flawless execution of the evaluations. Their daily activities can include anything from training Soldiers and supporting field service representatives (FSRs) to advising leadership on the status of schedules, physical integration, training, preparation, and execution of activities associated with each exercise.
“Our battalion Trail Bosses are assistant product managers who provide a critical interface with their supported battalion to plan, receive, train, employ, maintain, and troubleshoot systems nominated to participate in the NIEs,” said LTC Erik Webb, 2/1 AD Trail Boss.
Webb develops and leads the six battalion-level Trail Boss teams: military, engineering, logistics, test, information assurance, resource management, and combat development personnel.
“Their task goes beyond the management of cost, performance, and schedule of a single product,” said Webb. “They are also responsible for the end-to-end integration of hardware and software systems in their supported units. This includes providing subject-matter expertise to assist the unit in the proper operation and employment of systems that have limited time for collective training and familiarization by the unit.”
Working hand in hand with their assigned battalions during the NIE, Trail Bosses work seven days a week to ensure that the units have everything needed to prepare for and execute an NIE, including equipment delivery and installation, training, test instrumentation, integration and checkout, and logistics support. They are responsible for the management of planning, synchronizing, and integrating the systems under test and evaluation into units participating in the NIEs. In NIE 12.1, two systems underwent formal testing, while an additional 46 were simultaneously evaluated—a significant jump from the six Systems Under Test and 25 Systems Under Evaluation in the first NIE. More than 43 systems will be part of NIE 12.2.
“Being a battalion Trail Boss involves building relationships with all stakeholders and gaining an understanding of the technical and operational capabilities of the systems, and the units’ vehicle platforms,” said MAJ John McGee, NIE 12.1 Integration and Aerial Tier Trail Boss.
These relationships are pivotal because for the first time, industry has been allowed to participate in the NIEs as part of the Army’s new agile acquisition process. The Trail Bosses help bridge any gaps between industry representatives, engineers, and FSRs—who may or may not be accustomed to working within the framework of the Army—and the Soldiers they are supporting. The NIE Trail Bosses have become experts on how to accomplish their missions, enable effective communication, and carry out successful NIEs in support of the Army’s overarching network modernization effort.
- System of Systems Integration Directorate Staff