By Katie Cain
To orient industry partners with the Army’s new agile acquisition process and how the Network Integrated Evaluation (NIE) supports it, the Army hosted an Industry Day Sept. 8 in El Paso, TX, and at White Sands Missile Range, NM, for defense contractors interested in participating in future NIEs.
More than 150 representatives of 60 companies—both large defense corporations and small businesses—attended to learn more about the Army’s NIE test and evaluation process. The NIEs, semiannual evaluations designed to integrate and mature the Army’s tactical network, are a key element of the Army’s emerging Network Strategy.
The full-day event familiarized industry partners with the NIE process, introduced the Army organizations involved and their missions, and showed how the NIE’s evaluation brigade, the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD), is structured and equipped.
“By allowing industry to see how this unique brigade is structured and talk to Soldiers who operate the equipment, in a snapshot industry representatives were able to familiarize themselves with potential integration challenges as they bring capabilities into the NIE process,” said Paul Mehney, Chief of Public Communications for Program Executive Office (PEO) Integration.
Industry representatives got a firsthand look at the test and evaluation ranges, environmental conditions at White Sands, and various facilities where they would operate before, during, and after an NIE.
The first evaluation, NIE 11.2, was in June and July and involved nearly 3,800 2/1 AD Soldiers and 1,000 of their vehicles. The second iteration in the series, NIE 12.1, is slated for November.
During the inaugural Industry Day, leaders from the Brigade Modernization Command, U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, and PEO Integration, a group known as the “TRIAD,” demonstrated how the NIEs support the Army’s overarching Network Strategy to create a mobile, secure, wireless battlefield network for Soldiers.
Keying off lessons learned from NIE 11.2, service leaders repeatedly stressed the Army’s commitment to providing network connectivity and mission command capabilities to the small unit (company and below) of dismounted Soldiers at the tactical edge, who represent the Army’s most challenged and vulnerable network user.
They explained entrance, evaluation, and exit criteria, along with test and evaluation conditions, while Soldiers emphasized the importance of concrete training plans for the systems inducted in the NIEs.
By using the Agile Process, the Army can keep pace with technological advances, accelerating network modernization to a rate unachievable with traditional acquisition strategies. The Agile Process focuses primarily on meeting identified and prioritized capability gaps by integrating emerging technological solutions through iterative, pre-defined, and predictable windows for testing and insertion that are aligned with the Army Force Generation process.
“The Agile Process is truly a new way of doing business, and this first Industry Day provided an important environment for industry and Army collaboration,” said Mehney. “We listened to feedback that industry provided on how we are managing the Agile Process, and we intend to make improvements based on that. As we continue through solidifying the Agile Process, it needs to be a collaborative activity with industry, and events like this are important steps in making that happen.”
Future NIE players left Industry Day with a better understanding of the Army’s new business model.
“This is an incredible industry day,” commented one industry representative. “The Army has set the mark really high by using the panel presentations and motor pool tours to clearly articulate the process and address industry concerns.”
Approximately 50 networked and non-networked technologies will be assessed during NIE 12.1. The primary purpose is to continue required evaluations in support of program-of-record milestones and to advance the integration and understanding of the Army’s objective and bridge network architectures. It will also establish the Objective Integrated Network Baseline, common connectivity across the Brigade Combat Team structure, and introduce industry participation in the NIE evaluation cycle.
This second NIE will build off lessons learned from the June-July NIE evaluation to support the Army’s holistic focus on integrating network components simultaneously in one operational venue.
- KATIE CAIN is a PEO Integration Media Relations Specialist. She holds a B.A. in applied arts in integrative public relations, with a concentration in political science, from Central Michigan University.