• Network After Next

    CAPABILITY IN ACTION
    Staff Sgt. Shelby Johnson, a squad leader with the 4-10 MTN, observes the area around Forward Operating Base Torkham, Afghanistan. Johnson is wearing the new CS 13 communications suite, which was integrated and validated through the Army’s NIE. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jerry Saslav, 4-10 MTN Public Affairs)

    CS 13 TEST BED
    Lt. Col. James DeOre watches the 4-10 MTN command team leave Nangalam Base. The unit was the first to deploy to Afghanistan with CS 13, which introduces mission command on-the-move and extends the network to the Soldier. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class E.L. Craig, 4-10 MTN Public Affairs)

     

    By Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, Col. Mark Elliott and Col. John Zavarelli

     

    Just weeks after deploying to Afghanistan last summer, the commanders and Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (4-10 MTN) christened the Army’s new tactical communications network their “digital guardian angel.” Capability Set (CS) 13 became critical to their daily operations in Afghanistan, enabling them to cover more ground safely and providing a considerable tactical advantage. Their experience shows why the Army pushed so hard over the past two years to deliver CS 13, our first integrated package of communication systems that supports mission command on-the-move and brings the Soldier into the network.

    But we owe it to the 10th MTN—and the units next in line for new network technologies—to go further. How do we continue to enhance and refresh the network with each capability set? How do we make the network more capable but less complex to use, train, maintain and sustain? How do we focus innovation on capabilities that could be transformative for the network of 2020 and beyond?

    The answers rest in our partnership with industry. Examine Moore’s Law—that the number of transistors incorporated in a chip will approximately double every 24 months—or simply look at your own cellphone: When the pace of progress is exponential, the Army cannot keep up by itself. To field the latest tactical communication technologies to Soldiers, we know we need industry’s agility, innovation and investment, especially in a fiscally constrained environment. Our approach to driving industry involvement in the next phase of network modernization is built on two principles: consistency and competition.

    A NEW CONSTRUCT
    Consistency is aimed at making the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) a more productive venue for businesses of all sizes to demonstrate their capabilities. While the Army is procuring commercial routers, antennas, network operations tools, operational energy solutions and other items as a result of the NIE process, it has taken several NIE cycles to refine the supporting processes for this new way of doing business. During that evolution, we have listened to feedback from our industry partners and are now implementing a new construct for NIE 15.1 and beyond.

    This new construct will give industry additional time to respond to more focused capability gaps. It will also be synchronized with Army program objective memorandum (POM) planning so that successful systems can transition smoothly into our portfolios.

    The other way we plan to engage the network industrial base is through more frequent competition. Government-owned waveforms and a standardized Common Operating Environment (COE) set the conditions for the Army to conduct more competitions for radios, apps and other network components—putting the “buy fewer, more often” acquisition philosophy into action.

    IN SEARCH OF A MID-TIER SOLUTION
    Testers from the U.S. Army Electronic Proving Ground roll down a road near Fort Huachuca, Ariz., on July 25, 2013, as they evaluate the MNVR system in a test involving more than 80 nodes throughout Fort Huachuca and the surrounding area. In September 2013, the Army awarded an initial contract for MNVR using a competitive non-developmental item acquisition approach designed to procure lower-cost, commercially available radios that meet the Army’s requirement for a mid-tier tactical network solution. (U.S. Army photo by Douglas Smith, LRC Communications Security Logistics Activity)

    This approach will give more vendors the opportunity to participate in building the network and give the Army the flexibility to choose from multiple technologies. By structuring contracts to facilitate competition among qualified vendors on a regular basis, we will also reduce system costs and ensure that we encourage the innovation that will lead to progress with each capability set. For example, Company A could win a delivery order competition one year and Company B could win the following year, but both would have an incentive to propose improved, affordable products for the year after that.

    EVOLVING THE NIE
    The Army remains committed to the NIE process, which has proven its value within the Army and industry since its launch in 2011. Driven by Soldier feedback, lessons learned in past NIEs have allowed the Army to mature certain programs, restructure or terminate others and reallocate resources to new priorities. CS 13 was integrated, refined and validated through the NIEs—reducing the integration burden on the 10th MTN and 101st Airborne Divisions while helping develop tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) for using the gear in the field.

    Industry partners who submitted their systems for assessment not only have received invaluable feedback from ­Soldiers and Army laboratories, but also have demonstrated the breadth of available commercial technology, informing the Army’s acquisition strategy for several key programs. The Army has spent $39 million to procure non-program of record, NIE-tested radios to field. Recently, Congress provided funding that gave the Army $9.3 million to procure several systems under evaluation from previous NIEs. The Army also has begun to issue requests for proposals (RFPs) as a formal mechanism for streamlined competitive procurement of non-program of record systems that show promise at the NIE.

    The first RFP process resulted in six contract awards to different vendors for their vehicle tactical routers to be evaluated at NIE 14.1 in fall 2013.
    While there has been great success, we have also hit some speed bumps in ramping up the NIE process. Frustrated vendors told us that the government’s capability gaps were too broadly defined, the funding was too scarce and the schedule too unpredictable. We understand industry’s challenges, and we are adjusting the NIE to better facilitate vendor participation while meeting the needs of the Army within budget constraints.

    IDENTIFYING GAPS
    Beginning with NIE 15.1 in fall 2014, the Army will add periodic network baseline assessments to pinpoint capability gaps that industry can zero in on for near-term network modernization. NIE 15.1 will assess the integrated network baseline to evaluate the performance of existing network capabilities and identify remaining gaps. This effort will be informed by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Network Capability Review, an ongoing study that aims to identify the proper mix of systems and their requirements to provide integrated tactical network capabilities within various formations.

    ADVANCING COMMUNICATIONS
    PEO C3T is training “super” digital systems engineers on vehicles equipped with components of CS 13, the Army’s first integrated network fielding effort that spans the entire brigade combat team formation, connecting the fixed command post to the commander on-the-move to the dismounted Soldier. (Photo by Edric Thompson, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center)

    The capability gaps identified at NIE 15.1 will be fixed in place and released to industry so that their proposed solutions can be evaluated over the following two NIEs, 15.2 and 16.1. By identifying consistent gaps for two consecutive NIEs rather than releasing a new set with each exercise, the Army will increase industry’s lead time in developing and submitting mature capability solutions. NIE 16.2 will include another network baseline assessment. Then the updated gaps will be fixed in place and released to industry for two more NIEs, and the pattern will repeat for subsequent cycles.

    While the original NIE process was built to meet theater needs quickly, with the transition out of Afghanistan, the refined process will allow us to be more deliberate in determining and filling our network capability gaps. The new schedule and fewer, better-defined gaps will also allow the Army to better align NIE results with POM planning to inform procurement and fielding decisions for future capability sets.

    With these positive changes, it is still important to reiterate that the value of the NIE goes beyond acquiring systems. As the Army transitions from fighting two wars to preparing for future threats, the NIE will provide the operational laboratory to incrementally enhance the network, respond to the emerging needs of regionally aligned forces and assess dynamic “leap-ahead” capabilities—not just from industry, but also the Army science and technology community.

    NIEs will continue to integrate capability sets before fielding, refine TTPs, evaluate force design options and non-materiel requirements such as training, and give Soldiers a “vote” by collecting their feedback on all of these areas. NIEs remain a vital component of the Army’s modernization efforts.

    COMPETITION FOR RADIOS
    Since the advent of DOD’s Better Buying Power initiative, there has been increased attention to the benefits of competition. The rationale is clear: An environment in which multiple vendors compete to satisfy the same requirement can reduce cost, spur innovation, cultivate the industrial base and eliminate the single points of failure that come with dependence on one vendor. But to make a competition as effective as possible, the strategy must be tailored to the specific product and the current market. Fortunately, we are now hitting that “sweet spot” with a key part of the network—tactical radios.

    The current marketplace is primed for the Army to competitively procure advanced networking radios. The technical maturity achieved in the commercial, software-programmable radio field over the course of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) developmental effort has enabled industry to develop effective hardware solutions—radio “boxes”—more easily. Meanwhile, the Joint Tactical Networking Center (JTNC) maintains a data repository of secure networking waveforms and applications that adhere to open standards set by the government. The repository, along with the JTNC laboratory and accreditation resources, are accessible to vendors, allowing the waveforms to run on multiple hardware models that industry produces. Through our engagement with industry, including at the NIEs, we know that the technology now exists for a competitive marketplace of interoperable, affordable radios.

    Thus, the foundation is in place to execute the Army’s tactical radio strategy. In September 2013, we awarded an initial contract for Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radios (MNVR), using a competitive non-developmental item acquisition approach designed to procure lower-cost, commercially available radios that meet the Army’s requirement for a mid-tier tactical network solution.

    Now the Army is focused on executing full and open competitions, in which all industry partners can participate, for the full-rate production phases of the Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit Rifleman and Manpack radio programs. The goal is to decrease costs and drive down size, weight and power requirements while increasing system functionality and simplicity.

    While the details are still being finalized, the Army will conduct a full and open competition for each radio, and award contracts to qualified vendors meeting the Rifleman and Manpack radio requirements. Qualified vendors then will compete for delivery orders as needed by the Army, after qualification and operational tests to confirm compliance with technical and operational requirements.

    This constantly competitive environment promises to promote an active, engaged industrial base that has an incentive not only to lower prices but also to innovate for each capability set, ultimately improving the radios we deliver to Soldiers.

    Such multilayered, multiple-vendor- competition has shown success before, such as with the Consolidated Interim Single Channel Handheld Radio (CISCHR) contract, executed under the JTRS program. Initiated in 2007, CISCHR provided a contract vehicle for the joint services to procure government off-the-shelf and non-developmental, software-defined tactical handheld radios. While not a perfect comparison, CISCHR illustrates the potential advantages of a multiple-award contract that allows for delivery order competitions among vendors.

    COMPETITIVE BENEFITS
    Capt. Jonathan Page of the 4-10 MTN uses the Nett Warrior device connected to a Rifleman Radio at Nangalam Base, Afghanistan. The Army is conducting a full and open competition for the full-rate production phases of the Rifleman and Manpack radio programs. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class E.L. Craig, 4-10 MTN Public Affairs)

    Although this type of strategy can require more effort to manage, the money saved through competition far exceeds the administrative costs. CISCHR yielded an average savings of more than 40 percent, compared with the contractual ceiling prices over the life of the contract. It is also noteworthy that the radio technologies and features improved as a result of the vendors’ own investments.

    Radios aren’t the only network component for which the Army stands to benefit from increased competition. With the COE providing a comprehensive, standards-based open architecture, the Army can leverage industry’s state-of-the-art capabilities and best practices for other computing environment technologies.

    For example, many mission command systems previously developed by a single vendor as stovepiped boxes will be delivered instead as software applications, with multiple third parties competing to build and rapidly enhance them, broadening the market. The COE will also facilitate greater interoperability among various manufacturers’ systems, creating possibilities for common interfaces and common training as we work to simplify the network for the end user.

    CONCLUSION
    The network remains a critical Army modernization priority. It is a core element in enabling the Army to produce a future force that is smaller but still highly capable. As we build on lessons learned from the first CS 13 brigades to deliver these essential technologies to more units across the force, the Army will engage industry through consistent NIEs and frequent competitions in order to improve and simplify network capabilities. Working as partners, we will continue to provide our Soldiers with the information they need to change the game.

    For further information, go to http://peoc3t.army.mil.


    Brig.Gen. DANIEL P. HUGHES is the Program Executive Officer Command, Control and Communications – Tactical. He holds a B.A. in political science from the University of Texas at Arlington, an M.B.A. in business management from Oklahoma City University and an M.S. in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Hughes is Level III certified in program management. and is a member of the U.S. Army Acquisition Corps (AAC).

    Col. MARK ELLIOTT is the director, G-3/5/7 LandWarNet – Mission Command. He holds a B.A. in physics from the University of Alabama, an M.S. in telecommunication from Southern Methodist University and an M.A. in national security strategy with a concentration in information operations from the National Defense University’s National War College. Elliott is a certified information systems security professional and is certified in the Information Technology Infrastructure Library.

    Col. JOHN ZAVARELLI is the director, system of systems integration (SoSI) in the Office of Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. He holds a B.S. in management from the University of Colorado and an M.B.A. in business management from the University of Texas at Arlington as part of the Industry-Grad program that included training with industry at Lockheed Martin Corp. Zavarelli is Level III certified in program management and is a member of the AAC.


    Read more »
  • Army improves network build for NIEs, gives Soldiers the power of change

    A Soldier from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division operates Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) equipment during the Army's Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 14.1 at Fort Bliss, Texas, in November 2013. For the upcoming NIE 14.2, the Army has introduced a more efficient process to create the data products that enable communications across the tactical network -- setting the stage to simplify network start-up procedures for users and give operational units more control over their networks. (U.S. Army photo by Amy Walker, PEO C3T)

    By Claire Heininger

     

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – The Army is introducing a more efficient process to produce the digital “glue” that ties together the network architecture for the Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs).

    The new method is not only faster, but also provides greater flexibility as the Army adds industry systems to the network baseline for evaluation and incorporates capability improvements for each NIE event. By automating key parts of the process used to create the data products that enable communications across the tactical network, the Army is also setting the stage to simplify network start-up procedures for users and give operational units more control over their networks.

    “We shaved off several weeks of production time while delivering a better result to support the NIE,” said Randy Young, the Army’s project director for Tactical Network Initialization (PD TNI), assigned to the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T). “And it’s only a first step – what we’re doing for NIE will also be a proof of concept informing improvements to how Data Products are delivered and used across the force.”

    Data products are a collection of mission data required to initialize the Army’s network, enabling the flow of digital information between different communications systems. PD TNI builds a unique Data Product for each Army unit, taking into account its specific mission, personnel footprint and mix of networked mission command systems.

    Building data products for the NIE, however, poses a more complex undertaking than building them for a typical unit. While the Army’s usual 12-week production process was designed to deliver a complete, “set in stone” product – when the interoperability of a deploying unit’s network hinges on it, there is no margin for error – the NIE architecture is, by its nature, always changing. Systems are added to or subtracted from the evaluation list for a particular NIE. Vendors unfamiliar with Army network protocols need time to adapt their systems to Army standards.

    “Ultimately, we want to give users more power to build, maintain and adapt their tactical networks”

    “The NIE requires a lot of flexibility because it’s an experiment, and also has systems from outside the Army connecting to the network,” Young said. “The network evolves over time as we get closer to each event.”

    But the need for accuracy doesn’t go away – it is amplified, given that the NIE provides operational test data for programs of record, validates the Army’s network baseline for fielding and collects Soldier feedback on promising industry capabilities.

    “If the data product is broken, there will be major issues at the actual event,” Young said.

    For previous NIEs, the PD TNI team took the Army’s network systems architecture or “horseblanket” in NIE parlance, and manually translated it into the data products production environment by essentially re-creating a graphical depiction of the brigade network. Engineers spent weeks on quality assurance measures to ensure they accurately transferred the horseblanket and captured ensuing changes.

    The new process, launched for the upcoming NIE 14.2, eliminates the need for recreating the horseblanket by automatically translating the horseblanket data into the production database. Once the initial legwork is complete, changes are detected automatically and can be pinpointed and implemented more efficiently. After the systems are aligned, the tool then automatically generates the address attributes and assigns them the internet protocol (IP) addresses required to actually communicate over the network.

    Together, these changes allow PD TNI to produce accurate data products for an NIE in less than 12 weeks and better accommodate the need for flexibility.

    “It allows us to start the build later, and for future NIEs we’re aiming to get even faster,” Young said.

    The production techniques pioneered for the NIE will inform the Army’s processes used for fielding data products more broadly. The NIE is also serving as a test bed for new capabilities that give units the ability to adjust their network architectures due to operational changes. In the past, requests to change data products would be sent back to PD TNI, and the unit would wait weeks or months for a new set to be sent back to the field.

    With the warfighter initialization tool (WIT) as part of their initialization tool suite, units can make updates to data products much faster at the brigade level, improving situational awareness and better enabling the unit to meet its mission. After successful evaluation at several NIEs, the WIT began fielding to operational units in 2013. At NIE 14.2, the Army will build on that progress by demonstrating the ability for a battalion’s worth of upper tactical internet mission command applications to “self-initialize,” or automatically re-create the information that allows them to connect to the network.

    These improvements are considered interim steps to a long-term data products solution that will enable full “dynamic initialization of command and control applications,” Young said.

    “Ultimately, we want to give users more power to build, maintain and adapt their tactical networks,” he said. “Through the process and capability enhancements shown through NIE, we are absolutely on the right path.”


    Read more »
  • Army network stays connected even when ‘jumping the TOC’

    During the Army's Network Integration Evaluation 14.1, which wrapped up in mid-November at Fort Bliss, Texas, a system under evaluation, the Modular Integrated Command Post, provided advanced communication to the brigade Tactical Command Post through a modern suite of information systems, networking devices and tactical radios. The Modular Integrated Command Post also has the unique ability to generate electrical power from its own transmission through its On Board Vehicle Power system. (Photos by Amy Walker, PEO C3T)

    By Amy Walker, PEO C3T

     

    FORT BLISS, Texas (Dec. 9, 2013) — Brigade and battalion command posts, the heart of battlefield operations, are more mobile and agile than ever before, and through ongoing improvements in network capability, the Army is increasing their ability to move forward in the fight while retaining commanders’ critical situational awareness.

    Current technologies such as Warfighter Information Network Tactical, known as WIN-T, Increment 2, the Army’s mobile tactical communications network backbone, and emerging solutions like the Modular Integrated Command Post, or MiCP — a vehicle that efficiently provides networking equipment and power to support a command post — are enhancing a commander’s ability to lead from anywhere on the battlefield.

    “We are a maneuver unit that has to be mobile, lethal and expeditionary; if we are not able to move with our systems then we are really disadvantaged,” said Col. Thomas Dorame, commander for 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, the operational unit for the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, exercises. “Right now utilizing WIN-T Increment 2 and mission command on the move, I am able to extend the operational reach for the brigade, but more importantly, as units continue to move, to make contact with the enemy, we are able to provide them updated information from any location.”

    As part of the Army’s modular expeditionary force, brigade Tactical Command Posts, referred to simply as TACs, replicate the critical mission command and communication systems found in units’ much larger Tactical Operations Centers, known as TOCs. Both TACs and TOCs are stationary and don’t possess full operational capability when in transit to new locations, but the TAC’s robust at-the-halt network capability can be torn down, moved and set up in a fraction of the time that it takes to reconstruct the full blown TOC.

    The smaller TAC’s mission command and communications capabilities are tailorable and scalable and can be rearranged depending upon mission requirements. When the commander needs to move his main TOC forward on the battlefield, he will send the TAC ahead first to retain the unit’s operational network capability. Once the TAC is set up in its new location, the larger TOC can then move forward with minimal disruption to battlefield operations.

    During the Army's Network Integration Evaluation 14.1 at Fort Bliss, Texas, which wrapped up in mid November 2013, the brigade Tactical Command Post was integrated into a new mobile command post based on a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle with expandable sides that could be set up or torn down in under an hour, making it even more maneuverable, scalable and agile than the traditional Tactical Command Post tent.

    “WIN-T Increment 2 improves commanders’ flexibility since they can ‘jump’ their TACs and the TOCs much faster now, without loss of situational awareness,” said Lt. Col. LaMont Hall, product manager for WIN-T Increment 2. “They can simultaneously command and control from either location, or from their WIN-T Increment 2 -equipped vehicles.”

    Fielded since 2004, WIN-T Increment 1 provides Soldiers with high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications down to the battalion level. WIN-T Increment 2, which began fielding last year, enhances these capabilities by providing an on the move network that extends down to the company level. Both increments are deployed in Afghanistan today as part of the Army’s interoperable tactical communications network architecture.

    WIN-T Increment 2- equipped TACs and TOCs leverage Tactical Communications Nodes and advanced Satellite Transportable Terminals for satellite communications, which enable them to cover greater distances. In the past commanders could only jump their TACs as far as they could get their line-of-sight radio relay set up, approximately 10 to 15 kilometers. Now with WIN-T Increment 2′s beyond line-of-sight satellite communications, a commander can move his TAC an unlimited distance, Hall said.

    “The commander is able to keep full situational awareness at all times,” said Lt. Col. Ernest Tornabell, brigade communications officer for 2/1 AD. “He can go from the stationary TOC or TAC into his WIN-T Increment 2 Point-of-Presence-equipped vehicle, which has virtually everything [communication and mission command capabilities] that he had at the stationary locations; it gives him the ability to be driving on the road at 25 mph and continue to command the fight.”

    The Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2 Tactical Communications Node provides the Tactical Operations Center and Tactical Command Post with communication and networking equipment (line-of-sight and satellite communications) both on the move and at the halt to battalion and above echelons. While at the halt, the Tactical Communications Node is equipped with a 10-meter extendable mast to improve line-of-sight connectivity.

    To help incrementally advance network technologies such as WIN-T, the Army leverages its NIEs, semi-annual Soldier-led evaluations in the realistic operational testing environments of Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The Army also uses the events to introduce emerging industry solutions that could potentially satisfy network capability gaps.

    During NIE 14.1, which wrapped up in mid November, the brigade TAC was integrated into a new mobile command post based on a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle with expandable sides that could be set up or torn down in under an hour, making it even more maneuverable, scalable and agile than the traditional TAC tent. When the brigade TAC was set up in its stationary location, its communication and mission command laptops and screens were connected to the MiCP, an NIE system under evaluation, which provided the servers, network connectivity and power to the TAC. Since the TAC servers were located on the MiCP vehicle, they were always ready to be quickly reconnected with the network equipment in the TAC directly after a jump, instead of having to be torn down and set up again.

    Integrated onto a survivable MaxxPro mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, the MiCP solution significantly reduces size, weight, and power — thermal and cost requirements. The capabilities of two legacy Command Post Platforms, currently used to provide the necessary communications equipment to operate and support a TOC or TAC, were combined into just one mobile platform. MiCP provides advanced communication through a modern suite of information systems, networking devices and tactical radios, as well as the unique ability to generate electrical power from its own transmission through its On Board Vehicle Power system. MiCP will also be evaluated at NIE 14.2 this spring.

    “MiCP helps the commander be more flexible in where he can go and how quickly he can set up and establish [operations] at the halt by having to just connect a few cables instead of two sets of vehicles coming to the halt and setting up both of those,” Tornabell said.

    As the Army continues to modernize its network and make it easier for Soldiers to learn and operate, the force will increase its agility and ability to conduct current, evolving and future missions. The depth and breadth of information available at Soldiers’ fingertips, both in and out of the TOC, is also increasing, facilitating collaboration down to the lowest echelons and across the entire brigade combat team.

    “Operationally, we want to fight to the fullest extent with our great network and communication capabilities, and now we are able to extend out a lot further,” Dorame said. “We are able to receive back reports with a better clarity and fidelity to allow commanders at battalion and brigade level to make faster decisions with better resolution and less risk to the overall force.”


    Read more »
  • Mission command technology set for NIE evaluation, future evolution

    A Soldier monitors maneuver engagements using Command Post of the Future (CPOF). CPOF, currently under a Limited User Test at the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 14.1, is the primary common operating picture viewer used by the Army in all theaters, allowing units to plot and share information on tactical operations in real time. U.S. Army photo.

    By Kathryn Bailey

     

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. –One of the first technologies to transition acetate map information into a digitized format for information-sharing in Iraq and Afghanistan is now setting the stage for the Army’s progression to simplified, web-based mission command capabilities.

    As part of the latest fielding requirements for Command Post of the Future (CPOF), the Army’s primary system for viewing and sharing mission command information, Soldiers at this fall’s Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 14.1 at Fort Bliss, Texas, will perform a Limited User Test (LUT) to assess CPOF’s reliability and overall contributions to mission success. A successful LUT will provide CPOF with the Army’s Full Materiel Release (FMR) designation and will supersede the Urgent Materiel Release (UMR) designation that allowed critical system capabilities to continually reach Soldiers during wartime.

    “We are pleased to finally put CPOF through a formal operational test because we have a decade’s worth of success stories from the field,” said Col. Jonas Vogelhut, the Army’s project manager for Mission Command, in which CPOF is assigned. “We are also using Soldier feedback to keep improving CPOF as the foundation for the next generation of mission command technologies.”

    The CPOF LUT will be part of an NIE that has been scaled to meet the needs of the Army within budget constraints. In past NIEs, more than 3,800 Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD) assessed systems during live exercises. At NIE 14.1, only certain elements of 2/1 AD will be deployed to the field, while the remainder of the Brigade Combat Team (BCT) will use simulation and modeling in live, virtual environments for some of the smaller tests and evaluations.

    For example, the Army will gather data from Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Riley, Kan., with the headquarters at the division level at Fort Riley and the brigade at Fort Bliss. The key aspect of this test will be to gauge the operations of CPOF between the two locations over the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) network backbone. Successful operations between the installations will be a strong indicator of successful operations over real-world operational distances, such as from Afghanistan to Kuwait.

    Another key measurement for CPOF at NIE 14.1 will be its performance in both the command post and on-the-move in vehicles equipped with a WIN-T Increment 2 Point of Presence (PoP).

    The CPOF LUT also verifies the system’s readiness to field as part of the Army’s Common Operating Environment (COE), which is an Army-approved set of computing technologies and standards that is allowing secure and interoperable software application development across several computing environments. A standardized environment will yield lower development costs, improve interoperability and allow for easier system maintenance.

    “It has been exciting to watch CPOF’S modernization as the Army shifts towards technologies that will reduce both complexity and cost, and NIE 14.1 is right in step with these parameters,” Vogelhut said.

    CPOF is the primary common operating picture (COP) viewer used by the Army in all theaters, combining feeds from different mission command systems to provide a broad spectrum of information that commanders and staff members can use to collaborate. It has provided much needed capabilities during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), where CPOF-equipped units have been able to plot real-time tactical efforts like firefights on a three-dimensional map, and instantly see the updates that staff members make to those efforts.

    “We call CPOF’s capabilities ‘WYSIWIS’ or ‘what-you-see-is-what-I-see,’ said Lt. Col. Thomas Bentzel, product manager for Tactical Mission Command, assigned to PM MC. “That is because all the data is live and shared in real time.”

    With its latest release, CPOF is providing the next-generation architecture that enables entire theaters of operation to collaborate on a single distributed data repository with thousands of CPOF users. It also provides a “disconnected, intermittent, limited” (DIL) capability, allowing individuals and units to disconnect from the network, continue to conduct mission command operations using CPOF, and then reconnect and resynchronize with the repository. DIL capabilities provide uninterrupted operations in the event of a network outage or the requirement to rapidly relocate a command post.

    As mission command capabilities mature, CPOF is providing a thin client version of CPOF, called Command Web, that enables the Army and third-party developers to develop and field applications or “widgets” that represent the warfighting functions of maneuver, fires, intelligence, sustainment and protection. These web-based technologies will eventually reach across all of the Army’s computing environments, as part of the COE, and will provide a standardized, streamlined experience that will enhance the commander’s collaborative planning abilities.

    “CPOF revolutionized the concept of the COP, and now the commander is seeing how powerful integrating web-based warfighting systems into one environment can be to enhance his decision making capabilities,” Vogelhut said. “By integrating systems we also simplify them, making them easier for Soldiers to understand and use — and in times of reduced resources, we gain tremendous efficiencies through both equipment costs and training burdens.”

    Read more »
  • Smaller satellite terminal solution being fielded following Network Integration Evaluations

    By Amy Walker

     

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (June 12, 2013) — Taking advantage of lessons learned through several Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) cycles, the Army is fielding to its first unit a new, smaller ground satellite terminal designed to provide high-capacity, beyond-line-of-sight communications to newly digitized command posts at the company level.

    “One of the main goals the Army had in creating the Company Command Post (CoCP) was the reduction of size, weight, and power consumption, referred to as SWaP,” said Lt. Col. Greg Coile, product manager for Satellite Communications (PdM SATCOM), which manages the terminals. “We leveraged the NIE Process to inform a SATCOM solution that would reduce the Soldier’s burden and improve unit mobility.”

    The Secure Internet Protocol Router/Non-secure Internet Protocol Router (SIPR/NIPR) Access Point 1.2 meter Lite, referred to simply as “SNAP Lite,” was chosen as one of the SATCOM solutions to meet the requirement for a small form factor terminal to support the enhanced communication and mission command capabilities of the CoCP. This very small aperture terminal is a rapidly deployable, pack-in-the-box solution that extends the Army’s network and improves situational awareness for maneuver companies.

    An Expeditionary Signal Battalion (ESB) is the first unit to be fielded under the Department of the Army-directed requirement for CoCPs. The unit is scheduled to receive SNAP Lites, followed by two weeks of new equipment training. ESBs provide communication connectivity to disadvantaged users, often in austere environments, and Army modernization efforts call for an increase in ESB transport capability to improve battlefield communication.

    “The introduction of SNAPs into the company level command post gives company commanders access to those high-speed digital networks.”

    The ESB’s SNAP Lites will be used to support the unit’s worldwide contingency operations as well as potential NIE support in the future. Additional SNAP Lites for the Army’s CoCPs will be procured and fielded as funding is determined, while other CoCPs in theater will utilize the larger legacy SNAPs for their SATCOM requirements.

    “In the past we have always relied on larger aperture satellite dishes, but now we are fielding one that is smaller, lighter and more compact and can fit inside a rapid force deployment,” said John Lundy, SNAP project lead for PdM SATCOM. “The reduction in setup time and SWaP makes the unit more mobile.”

    Like the legacy SNAPs, SNAP Lites provide secure and non-secure satellite communications for the CoCP. The communications and mission command systems that make up the Army’s newly enhanced, digitized CoCP are intended to deliver a new level of advanced voice and data communications to the company level and improve the flow of critical battlefield information.

    “CoCP users can take their mission command systems and plug right into the SNAP on both classified and non-classified networks,” said Michael Sidwell, SNAP systems integration engineer for PdM SATCOM. “With the addition of these beyond-line-of-sight capabilities, the CoCP becomes a hub in battlefield operations where users can exchange critical battlefield information from the Soldier on the ground on up to higher headquarters.”

    SNAPs work in concert with both Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 1 and WIN-T Increment 2, which together make up the Army’s current tactical communications network backbone, essentially the Army’s Internet. In the past, Army maneuver companies did not have high-capacity entry into digital networks, and that reach-back to the network backbone is critical for today’s evolving missions.

    “The introduction of SNAPs into the company level command post gives company commanders access to those high-speed digital networks,” Sidwell said. “The company command post connection completes an important part of the network architecture.”

    The capabilities of SNAP Lite, along with other potential CoCP industry-proposed solutions, were evaluated during NIE 12.2 held in May 2012. The intent of the NIE process is to assess and integrate systems that meet an operational need or gap, primarily through Soldier-led evaluations during the semi-annual field exercises. The Army established a realistic operational environment at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M., to conduct these evaluations. NIE systems under evaluation, such as the CoCP SNAP Lite, are submitted by government and industry and go through a selection process to participate in the NIEs to receive a full assessment.

    The Army’s solicitation for a small form factor terminal to support the CoCP included required vendor participation in a demonstration held at the Joint Satellite Engineering Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, (APG) Md. Engineers from APG’s Communications Systems Design Center were also leveraged to review and ensure the validity of the demonstration’s technical data, Lundy said.

    “The CoCP directed requirement demonstrated that we could evaluate the latest technology and capability through the NIE then complete that requirement to gain the best value for the Army,” Coile said.


    Read more »
  • The evolution of Trail Bosses, a one-stop shop for acquisition enterprise integration into the NIE

    NIE 13.2, which kicked off this week, is the fifth in a series of semi-annual, Soldier-led evaluations designed to further integrate and rapidly progress the Army's tactical network. As the NIEs have evolved over the past two years, so has the concept of Trail Bossing, and the Trail Bosses themselves. (photos by Claire Heininger)

    By Lt. Col. Keith Taylor

     

    One of the things that makes the Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs) so valuable is that the Soldiers judging equipment are not part of a so-called “test unit,” but an operational brigade combat team, but that’s also one of the things that makes the NIEs so difficult.

    The 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD) still has all of the responsibilities of a typical BCT: arms proficiency, physical training tests, developing the junior enlisted into noncommissioned officers and carrying out all of their standard training. At the same time, the Army requires them to learn and evaluate dozens of sophisticated communications systems, which happen to change every six months.

    It is a lot to ask— so to help ease the burden, the acquisition community provides Trail Bosses who embed with the unit. Trail Bosses are acquisition professionals who serve as a link between 2/1 AD and government and industry organizations that contribute equipment to the NIE. Trail Bosses explain the operational intent of the systems being evaluated and make sure the unit has the proper equipment and training to conduct the NIE mission, as well as its other tasks.

    Soldiers should be spending the NIE fighting the enemy, not the network. With the network remaining a cornerstone of Army modernization, the Trail Boss Team that ensures successful NIE execution is an integral part of the acquisition workforce.

    A main focus of this NIE is executing the Follow-On Test and Evaluation for WIN-T Increment 2, a major upgrade to the tactical network backbone that introduces mission command on the move and extends the network to the company level. Here, Soldiers from 2/1 AD, drive vehicles equipped with WIN-T Increment 2 during preparations for NIE 13.2.

    This unique position in the NIE process is also a benefit to the larger acquisition enterprise. Once systems are approved for participation during decision point 2 of the NIE cycle, the Trail Boss Team becomes a one-stop source for all information regarding how to integrate into the NIE. As the acquisition community uses the NIE to gain valuable Solider feedback on systems, they have a team of acquisition professionals on the receiving end of that feedback to ease the process.

    As the NIEs have evolved over the past two years, so has the concept of Trail Bossing, and the Trail Bosses themselves. Several officers have signed up to be Trail Bosses as their gateway to the Acquisition Corps, after joining from the test community, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and even 2/1 AD. In their new roles, they gain a skill set and “system of systems” perspective that will be valuable as they advance in their careers, as well as subject matter expertise on a variety of different network technologies. They learn a more “agile” approach to acquisition, in which the Army can revise requirements to more realistically meet Soldiers’ needs.

    In turn, their diverse perspectives strengthen the support the acquisition community is able to provide to the unit and the Army. Armed with operational experience and the ability to “speak the Soldier language,” the Trail Bosses now essentially serve as the third field-grade officer for each battalion, a critical force multiplier for the unit. Building upon lessons learned and after-action reviews from previous NIEs, their role has also become the overarching coordinator of standing up the NIE network and sustaining it during the evaluation.

    During the intense preparation period of each NIE cycle, when hundreds of vehicles are integrated with new network equipment, Trail Bosses are constantly in contact with their battalion staff and external stakeholders regarding integration and training schedules, property accountability, field support representative tasking and synchronization, unit requirements and project manager support. They follow standardized processes for each of these responsibilities and publish detailed schedules two weeks in advance after vetting them through the unit to ensure the plans are executable. Once the NIE itself is underway, Trail Bosses now operate right in the battalion footprint with their assigned units. When something goes wrong, the trouble ticket to resolve it goes through the Trail Boss.

    As the Trail Boss Team has become more integrated with the NIE process, that has helped the acquisition community to forge a strong, trusting relationship with all levels of 2/1 AD. That, in turn, opens the feedback channels that foster continuous improvement.

    Soldier feedback from the NIE has been incorporated into the makeup of the CoCPs that are being fielded as part of CS 13, the Army's first fully integrated communications package to emerge from the NIE process. Two Brigade Combat Teams of the 10th Mountain Division are now training on CS 13 in preparation for potential deployment to Afghanistan later this year. 2/1 AD Soldiers set up CoCPs in the Integration Motor Pool at Fort Bliss, TX, in preparation for NIE 13.2.

    A significant area of focus for future NIEs is maturing the connection between the NIE Trail Bosses and the Trail Bosses assigned to each BCT being fielded with Capability Set (CS) 13. CS 13, the mobile communications network vetted through the NIEs, is the Army’s first integrated fielding effort for network technologies that provide connectivity across the entire BCT formation. The challenges the embedded Trail Bosses face – synchronizing equipment deliveries, vehicle touches, training and other elements – are similar to what the NIE Trail Bosses encounter. Sharing more information between the two groups will further reduce the burden on units operating in a time-constrained environment.

    Through the Trail Bosses, the Army has struck a balance between what 2/1 AD is required to do for its own mission and its support for the NIE mission. The acquisition community contributes subject matter expertise on the array of systems they must evaluate, while translating acquisition lingo into operational-speak and vice versa. To that unit, the Trail Bosses are the acquisition corps, and we will continue to evolve to live up to our task.

    Lt. Col. Keith Taylor oversees the NIE Trail Boss Team as product manager, capability package integration for the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology System of Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate. He holds a B.A. in criminal justice from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. in acquisition and contract management from Florida Institute of Technology. Taylor is Level III certified in contracting and project management as well as a certified project management professional.


    Read more »
  • Army prepares for next Network Integration Evaluation

    Soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division train on Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 in February. The main focus for NIE 13.2 is the Follow-on Test and Evaluation (FOT&E) for WIN-T Increment 2, which is the Army's mobile network backbone. (Photos by Claire Heininger, U.S. Army)

    Claire Heininger, U.S. Army

     

    FORT BLISS, TEXAS — With two units now readying for Afghanistan with the Army’s new tactical communications network, the service will continue to drive technology forward through its next Network Integration Evaluation this spring.

    Soldier training, vehicle integration, system check-outs and other preparations are well underway in advance of NIE 13.2, which begins in May at Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range, N.M. It is the fifth in the series of semi-annual field evaluations designed to keep pace with rapid advances in communications technologies and deliver proven and integrated network capabilities to Soldiers.

    The NIEs are not stand-alone events, but build on previous exercises by improving the Army’s integrated network baseline and incorporating Soldier feedback into system functionality and training methods. As the Army continues to field network capability sets with systems and doctrine vetted through the NIE, the events will further evolve to include joint and coalition involvement next year.

    “The NIE offers us the ability to evaluate and improve the network incrementally,” said Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, the Deputy for Acquisition and Systems Management, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, known as ASA(ALT). “It forces the community together in an environment where Soldiers are telling us what we did well and what we didn’t do well — very graphically, very visually, very obviously.”

    From combined arms maneuver across more than 150 miles of desert to subterranean operations in mountain caves, NIE 13.2 includes mission threads designed to measure network performance at all echelons, from the brigade commander down to the dismounted Soldier. It will include an aerial tier to extend the range of communications and operational energy solutions to more efficiently power networked equipment.

    “We’ve got some good questions, and the scenario will allow us to get at a lot of those operational pieces,” said Col. Elizabeth Bierden, chief of the Network Integration Division, Brigade Modernization Command, or BMC. “We’ve seen many of the systems before, but I think we just get the network better every single time.”

    An engineer works on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle equipped with network gear in preparation for the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 13.2. From combined arms maneuver across more than 150 miles of desert to subterranean operations in mountain caves, NIE 13.2 includes mission threads designed to measure network performance at all echelons, from the brigade commander down to the dismounted Soldier.

    The main focus for NIE 13.2 is the Follow-on Test and Evaluation (FOT&E) for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2, the Army’s mobile network backbone. WIN-T Increment 2 provides an enhanced capability over the current Increment 1 version used today in Afghanistan, including unprecedented “on-the-move” communications capabilities down to the company level. A successful test will enable the Army to keep fielding WIN-T Increment 2 to operational units beyond Capability Set 13, which is now being delivered to select brigade combat teams (BCTs) preparing for deployment.

    During the FOT&E, the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD) will conduct the full range of military operations — from movement to contact to peacekeeping — and stretch the WIN-T network over even greater distances than during NIE 12.2, which was the unit’s first formal chance to assess the system. Following that evaluation in May 2012, the Army aggressively pursued and implemented corrective actions to address the areas identified for improvement, and 2/1 AD Soldiers have also become more comfortable and proficient with the equipment.

    “The training is more hands-on, and with the knowledge we already have we’re able to go more in-depth,” said Spc. Erik Liebhaber, who has participated in three NIEs and said training for 13.2 incorporated specific scenarios that Soldiers had previously encountered in the field. “That’s a big part of the continuity.”

    Other systems under formal test include Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P), the Army’s next-generation situational awareness and blue force tracking technology; Nett Warrior, a smartphone-like system for dismounted leaders; the Area Mine Clearance System-Medium Flail, an armored vehicle designed for clearing large areas of anti-tank and anti-personnel landmines; and Tactical Communication and Protection System, designed to prevent hearing injury while allowing Soldiers to remain cognizant of their environment during combat. A dozen additional systems, such as those comprising the aerial tier, will receive less formal evaluations.

    Both JBC-P and Nett Warrior have actively incorporated user feedback from several previous NIE cycles into their hardware and software designs.

    “It’s gotten a lot simpler to use,” Staff Sgt. Lance Bradford said of JBC-P. “That was our largest suggestion to them — you’ve got to get this more user-friendly.”

    Soldier feedback and lessons-learned from the NIEs not only affect the conduct of future NIE iterations, but have also been applied to the process of producing, fielding and training units on Capability Set (CS) 13, which is the Army’s first such communications package to provide integrated connectivity throughout the BCT. The NIEs informed all aspects of CS 13, from how network systems are installed onto a vehicle, to which training approach is most effective, to which Soldiers within a brigade are issued certain pieces of equipment.

    Two BCTs of the 10th Mountain Division, now in the final stages of training before deploying to Afghanistan later this year, are receiving lessons-learned and recommended operational uses for the equipment that were developed during the NIE process. Serving as Security Forces Advise and Assist Teams (SFAATs), the units will rely on the new network as they work closely with the Afghan forces, take down fixed infrastructure and become increasingly mobile and dispersed in their operations.

    While NIE missions to date have confirmed that CS 13 can support such operations, they have not been limited to the Afghan mission. The NIE 13.2 scenario will set the stage for future exercises that will include new offensive and defensive operations replicating what units may face in other regions, including joint and coalition involvement beginning with NIE 14.2 next spring.

    “We are trying to set the stage for a joint and multinational effort in 14.2, and so we’re looking across functions at Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, close air support, air ground-integration, with the major objectives focused on joint entry operations and the joint network,” said Brig. Gen. Randal Dragon, BMC commander. “We’ll be in a position to look at a number of those joint functions and we’ll set the stage through the series of NIEs we have coming up.”
     
     


    Read more »
  • Long-term strategic planning spurs agile consolidation

    A Soldier from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD) uses a Nett Warrior handheld connected to a Rifleman Radio to pass information during operations at the Army's Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 13.1 on Nov. 9, 2012. The Rifleman Radio and Nett Warrior are key to connecting dismounted leaders into the tactical communications network through voice and data. (Photo credit: Claire Heininger, U.S. Army)

    Katie Cain

     

    Army Acquisition leaders are implementing a new approach to equipment modernization—a comprehensive 30-year strategic planning process designed to harvest key lessons learned from more than a decade of war, identify current and anticipated capability gaps, recognize emerging threats and provide a detailed analysis of the service’s investments in science and technology (S&T) and material development.

    As part of the 30-year plan, the Army is re-assessing S&T across all portfolios to create a detailed road map of our future capabilities, linking S&T investments with Programs of Record (PORs) and long-term sustainment strategy. This approach seeks to harness near-term capability and identify emerging technologies for the future in order to sustain an agile, deployable, technologically superior force able to keep pace with rapid technological change.

    The Army is working to lay out current and planned capabilities across a 30-year time span and aligning not only processes to support the plan but, but also aligning organizations in order to employ better business practices. As a result, in January, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)) consolidated two directorates – the Office of the Chief Systems Engineer (OCSE) and the System of Systems Integration (SoSI) Directorate – into the Systems of Systems Engineering and Integration (SoSE&I) Directorate.

    The reorganization was the result of a directive to merge from Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, ASA(ALT) Deputy for Acquisition and Systems Management (DASM), in an effort to continue to advance the Army’s agile acquisition process, improve efficiencies, enhance long-term strategic needs planning and lower overall acquisition costs.

    A System of SoS
    SoSE&I provides coordinated system-of-systems (SoS) analysis, engineering, and architectural and integration products to facilitate how the Army efficiently shapes, manages, validates and synchronizes the fielding of integrated materiel capabilities. Comprising two directorates – SoS Integration (SoSI) and SoS Engineering (SoSE) – SoSE&I combines the systems integration and engineering offices into one organization, allowing for more efficient and effective cooperation to enhance the Army’s long-term planning objectives.

    “Bringing engineering and integration together gives us the ability to look at a system of systems across the Army and incorporate it into our long-term strategic planning,” said Terry Edwards, Executive Director, SOSE&I. “We’re able to look out at how we shape the Army’s architecture to be more capable, but also how we deliver that capability in a more efficient manner.”

    Soldiers, engineers, trail bosses and other personnel prepare for the Army's Network Integration Evaluation (NIEs) at the Integration Motor Pool, located at Fort Bliss, Texas. At the Motor Pool, the Army's System of Systems Integration (SoSI) Directorate leads integration of network equipment onto various vehicle platforms, and validates system performance prior to the start of the evaluations. NIE 13.2, the service's fifth NIE slated for May 2013, will focus on continued solidification of the network baseline and be used to execute the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation (FOT&E). (Photo credit: Travis McNiel, System of Systems Engineering & Integration (SoSE&I) Directorate)

    The office now shapes and analyzes near-term and long-term systems integration and architecture engineering across Army program portfolios. This will allow the Army to better communicate to industry and the research and development community how portfolios align and integrate over time, allowing for better planning of independent research and development (IR&D) resourcing.

    Using the SoS approach, SoSI is charged with synchronizing integration and interoperability across Program Executive Offices (PEOs) and Army PORs, current force systems and other doctrine, organization, training, leadership, personnel and facilities (DOTLPF) elements to achieve integrated capabilities for a full-spectrum force. SoSE plans, analyzes, organizes and integrates the capabilities of both new and existing systems into a SoS capability to achieve necessary end-to-end coordination and performance. The third major component of the organization, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) coordinates across PEOs and serves as conduit to G-6 in the transformation to deliver timely, trusted, and shared information across the ASA(ALT) community. The result is better collaboration and more efficient and effective cooperation to enhance our long-term planning objectives.

    Combining Engineering and Execution
    “You have SoSE, which is the engineering side, and you have SoSI, which is the execution side,” said Col. Rob Carpenter, SoSI Director. “SoSI implements the plans and architecture that have been put together by SoSE. We do everything from lab-based risk reduction, all the way to capability set fielding. SoSI did this before the organizations merged, but now our starting point is an architecture that’s been produced by SoSE. The biggest benefit is having a direct connection between a handoff of products between the engineering side and the integration side so we’re not duplicating any efforts.”

    By eliminating the duplication of requirements for PEOs, SoSE&I is reducing duplicate budget requirements, and creating efficiencies in design, operations, and sustainment that will result in lower costs to the Army, and creating specifications/standards to simplify integration.

    Consolidating the organizations created an optimum balance of personnel and resources, which in turn is enabling more effective communication with industry partners, both small and large, who participate in the Army’s Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs). SoSI is the Army’s materiel integrator and synchronizer in support of all phases of the Agile Process and the NIE. NIEs are now helping to shape “agile” capability integration by assessing Soldier provided and technical operational test data to influence not only how the Army procures capability, but also how integrated network capability requirements are validated and refined.

    In April/May, the Army will conduct its fifth NIE, known as NIE 13.2, to execute the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation (FOT&E). WIN-T Increment 2 is the backbone of the Army’s tactical network, providing key Mission Command On-the-Move capability beyond what is available in today’s operational force. A positive FOT&E will solidify the network baseline and allow additional industry and government solutions to be integrated and evaluated as part of the Army tactical network.
     
     


    Read more »
  • Common Operating Environment assists Army modernization

    A Soldier with 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, demonstrates Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2 and mission command on the move applications at the Network Integration Evaluation 12.1 in October 2011. The next two Network Integration Evaluations at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., will help validate Mission Command and Common Operating Environment software. (Photo by U.S. Army)

    Kris Osborn

     

    WASHINGTON – As the Army matures its Agile Process, steps are being taken to align systems engineering and integration in an effort to project and synchronize trends in technology and standards across Army programs now and in the future. An outcome of this alignment is that the system of systems engineering community is now shaping the Army’s network infrastructure to be more capable and efficient, enabling industry to build devices and applications to standards and align research and development with the Army’s acquisition roadmap.

    To support this effort, the Army acquisition community is implementing the Common Operating Environment (COE). The COE is an approved set of computing technologies and standards that enable secure and interoperable applications to be developed and executed rapidly across a variety of computing environments (CEs), Army officials explained.

    “COE is essential to standardizing the computing infrastructure fundamental to Army network modernization, as the current strategic modernization approach stretches across a 30-year time span with a focus on identifying and leveraging emerging Commercial off the shelf (COTS) technology,” said Terry Edwards, Director of the newly formed System of Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate.

    COE, which includes an effort to synchronize a number of computing environments, was established, in part, to support a 30-year strategic modernization approach outlined by the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, ASA (ALT), Heidi Shyu. The concept informing this effort hinges upon the need to integrate promising emerging technology into established programs of record. At the same time, a key portion of this effort relates to the importance of linking modernization efforts with the Army’s Science and Technology (S&T) community.

    “Bringing the 30-year plan and COE together, we are going to identify a roadmap for each of the portfolios so that we can tailor our approach to address specific capability gaps,” said Edwards.

    With the initial implementation plan unveiled in early 2012, the thrust of COE consists of a set of technical standards and computing technologies with specified layers designed to facilitate integration and interoperability among software applications and hardware , said Phil Minor, Chief, COE Division, ASA (ALT). “COE is aimed at selecting and integrating a set of standards and protocols in order to achieve an open architecture, where protocols are not proprietary to a specific vendor,” he added.

    Now underway, COE implementation is aligning Army programs into six Computing Environments (CE) based on mission and environment (size, weight, power, and bandwidth) limitations. Each CE will be baselined on a common foundation (hardware and software) to facilitate reuse of common components. Each CE will be designed to interoperate with the others, thus forming the COE. The interface between CEs will be enabled through the establishment of Control Points, i.e., tightly controlled technical specifications that act as the blueprint for how data will be exchanged between CEs. Implementation will be in a phased approach expected to be executed over the next several years. The idea is to stop developing systems within different stove-pipes or silos of capability, but rather to allow applications and emerging technologies to rest upon a common computing architecture or foundation, Edwards explained.

    The open architecture concept upon which COE is based is fundamental to the ongoing development of a number of significant Army modernization programs which are currently making substantial technical progress. A few of these are: Nett Warrior – a hand-held digital display device for dismounted units, Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS) – a fixed-wing Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft and Distributed Common Ground System – Army (DCGS-A) – an integrated intelligence database, explained Edwards.

    COE is fundamental to the Capability Set management approach currently being pursued by the Army, a method of capability development designed to integrate promising emerging technology with effective existing systems. The technologies which comprise these Capability Sets are engineered with the System-of-Systems approach to integration and development, designed to lower costs and facilitate interoperability.

    Many of these COE standards are currently being identified, integrated and evaluated through the Army’s Network Integration Evaluations (NIE), a series of ongoing operational assessments of technologies and capabilities taking place in the realistic, combat-like environment of White Sands Missile Range, N.M. In fact, two upcoming NIEs will help validate Mission Command COE software.
     
     


    Read more »
  • Army lays out Network path ahead at industry day

    Approximately 200 industry representatives attended the Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, 14.1 Industry Day, with at least 45 percent of participants representing small businesses. The event served to emphasize the Army's commitment to the NIE construct, outline improvements to the process and keep the network industrial base informed of the Army's needs and plans. (Photo Credit: Claire Heininger, ASA (ALT))

    Claire Heininger

     

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Facing both new missions and fiscal constraints, the Army will use the Network Integration Evaluations to respond to emerging requirements, make smarter acquisition decisions and keep pace with technological change, Army senior leaders told industry partners last week.

    Attended by approximately 200 industry representatives, with at least 45 percent of participants representing small businesses, the Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, 14.1 Industry Day served to emphasize the Army’s commitment to the NIE construct, outline improvements to the process and keep the network industrial base informed of the Army’s needs and plans.

    Having listened to industry feedback from the first four NIEs, the Army is incorporating a combined Request for Proposals and Sources Sought process to procure promising capability out of the NIE; as well as doing more advance planning of NIEs so companies can better align their research and development resources with the capabilities the Army is seeking.

    “The network is driven by commercial technology, and that isn’t going to stop. We need to be smart enough in the Army to leverage that and bring it in,” said Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, the Deputy for Acquisition and Systems Management, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, known as ASA(ALT). “We’re getting value in showing the art of the possible and refining our requirements. NIE gives us a tremendous venue to iterate technology and get it right.”

    Scott Newman, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center program director, Systems Engineering and Integration, talks to Industry reps at the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems Integration Lab, or C-SIL, during Network Integration Evaluation 14.1 Industry Day. The C-SIL is in direct support to NIE providing integration/interoperability evaluations, and serves as a risk reduction activity prior to field evaluations. (Photo Credit: Claire Heininger, ASA (ALT))

    Held twice a year at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M., the NIEs bring together the Army requirements, materiel, testing, training and doctrine communities in order to further integrate and rapidly mature network and non-network capabilities. The capabilities are evaluated in realistic missions by a full Brigade Combat Team of Soldiers who provide detailed feedback and assessments to inform Army decisions on requirements, fielding, doctrine and procurement.

    The Army is using the NIE construct to help validate tactical network requirements, integrate complex network and platform systems, ensure system interoperability and most important to gain Soldier feedback to inform the Army on what systems show promise from a user perspective. Beginning with NIE 14.2 in spring 2014, NIEs are evolving to include Joint and Coalition Operations, which facilitates an affordable method of evaluating Joint capabilities in the Coalition environments where the Army expects to operate.

    “We recognize that we’re probably not going to fight any future fights alone, so it would behoove us to make sure that at various echelons, we can talk across those different formations,” said Col. Mark Elliott, director of the Army G-3/5/7 LandWarNet-Mission Command Directorate. “We have to continue to mature the NIE, and this is going to be more important as the dollars dry up.”

    Due to the swift progress of communications technology, private sector innovation is crucial to Army network modernization and the success of the NIEs. There has been significant interest in the process from businesses of all sizes. In total, more than 416 industry and government candidates applied for NIE consideration; after laboratory and white paper candidate assessments, 140 were evaluated as part of the last four NIEs.

    The next NIE, 13.2, focuses on the continued solidification of the network baseline, including the Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2. NIE 14.1, which will take place in October-November 2013, is the first to use a formal Request for Proposals, or RFPs, for industry solutions, with an RFP seeking Vehicle Tactical Routers released, Dec. 20.

    Along with continued Sources Sought notices to assess industry solutions to broad, less mature capability gaps, the RFPs will be used for defined capability gaps and provide a formal mechanism for streamlined competitive procurement of non-Program of Record systems that show promise out of the NIE.

    By continuing to hold two NIEs each fiscal year, the Army can evaluate a broad range of network and non-network technology solutions, but also use the events to help shape specific requirements and improvements, allowing for more targeted acquisitions.

    The Army has also recently combined its systems engineering and integration staff functions overseeing the NIE, which will facilitate better interaction with industry and more advance planning of network standards and needs. The new organization, known as the System of Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate under ASA(ALT), provides coordinated system of systems analysis, engineering, architectural and integration products to facilitate how the Army efficiently shapes, manages, validates and synchronizes the fielding of integrated materiel capabilities.

     
     


    Read more »