WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army will evaluate its tactical network baseline during the Network Integration Evaluation 15.1, in fall 2014 in order to set conditions for future network development and refine focus areas for industry innovation.
The Network Baseline Assessment will evaluate the performance of current integrated network capabilities in a variety of operational scenarios, while pinpointing remaining capability gaps that need to be filled to meet the Army’s future mission command needs.
In a change from previous Network Integration Evaluations, known as NIEs, the Army will then begin to fix in place identified capability gaps for two subsequent NIE cycles, lengthening the time period for vendors to propose solutions. While the original NIE process was built to quickly meet needs from theater, with the transition out of Afghanistan the refined process will allow the Army to be more deliberate in determining and filling network capability gaps for future capability set fielding.
By periodically examining the network baseline and identifying gaps which will then be addressed in two consecutive NIEs, the Army will increase industry’s lead time in developing and proposing mature capability solutions, and better leverage that innovation to deliver enhanced communications to Soldiers.
NIE 15.1, the eighth in the series of semi-annual field evaluations designed to accelerate and improve the way communications technologies are delivered to Soldiers, will take place October – November 2014 at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M. In addition to the Network Baseline Assessment, the Army will also evaluate a limited number of new solutions proposed by government and industry. The Army released a Government Call for Mature Solutions notice, Jan. 16, and a Sources Sought notice to industry, Jan. 17, seeking emerging capabilities to be evaluated for potential participation in NIE 15.1. The Army’s goal in limiting the capability gaps released for 15.1 is to seek specific solutions while not interfering with the Network Baseline Assessment.
“The reduction in new candidate systems for NIE 15.1 will allow the Army to get a clear picture of the brigade’s networked systems and begin to establish the baseline we will build upon,” said Kim Bowen, Integration Planning Division Chief for the Army’s System of Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate. “This information will support the early release of a detailed Sources Sought notice for future NIEs as well as provide industry additional time to prepare candidate solutions for those events.”
While setting the conditions for NIE 15.1, the Army is simultaneously preparing to execute NIE 14.2 in spring 2014, which will feature increased Joint and multinational participation in conjunction with the Joint Staff-led BoldQuest exercise. The Network Baseline Assessment will be informed by results from NIE 14.2 as well as from the recently concluded NIE 14.1, which indicated that after delivering groundbreaking communications technologies to Soldiers in Afghanistan, the Army should now focus tactical network development efforts on simplifying tools and applications, right-sizing command posts and increasing operational flexibility for future missions.
Since their launch in 2011, the NIEs have evaluated more than 170 systems and helped integrate, refine and validate Capability Set 13, or CS 13, the Army’s first integrated network package providing mobile communications down to the dismounted Soldier. CS 13 has been fielded to four brigade combat teams, including two now deployed to Afghanistan, and fielding and training is now underway for the follow-on CS 14.