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U.S. Army Opens NIE 14.2 to Foreign Vendors

As part of its evolving semi-annual Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) process, the U.S. Army has announced plans to open next year’s NIE 14.2 to “foreign vendors.”

Although the event itself won’t be held until May 2014, the Army will be holding an Industry Day at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., on June 25, 2013, to update both foreign and domestic vendors on the objectives and status of the 14.2 event. Current plans also call for the release of an NIE 14.2 “sources sought” announcement in early June.

The late-April announcement regarding foreign vendors was designed to provide sufficient time for those vendor representatives to submit visit request documentation to attend the Industry Day.

Network Integration Evaluation (NIE)

U.S. Army soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, are pictured at the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation 13.1 in November, 2013. The NIEs, which have already yielded enhanced network capabilities for select brigade combat teams deploying to Afghanistan, are now adapting to encompass scenarios posed by other theaters and the regional alignment of forces, as well as joint and coalition operations. U.S. Army photo by Claire Heininger

At any point in time, the Army modernization process is simultaneously working aspects of three different NIEs. For example, the same week that the referenced 14.2 announcement was issued, elements of the Army’s 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD) were rolling to the field from Ft. Bliss, Texas, to complete the Communications Exercise (COMMEX) phase of events prior to the official start of NIE 13.2. The field COMMEX phase should be completed approximately April 29, 2013, with current plans having the NIE itself concluding on June 6, 2013.

As noted, June will also see the issuing of the “sources sought” and Industry Day activities for next year’s NIE 14.2. And preparations for both of those activities have been underway for many months, at the same time that the Army has been refining its network and preparing its equipment for NIE 13.2.

Moreover, at the same time that both of those “Dot 2” NIEs were being addressed, significant work has also been underway on NIE 14.1, which is scheduled to occur  October – November 2013 at Ft. Bliss and nearby White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

According to an early January 2013 announcement from the Army’s Directorate for System of Systems Integration (SoSI), that NIE 14.1 will involve “a narrow focus on Specific Identified Gaps in the current and evolving networked equipment solution set.”

Network Integration Evaluation (NIE)

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, NIEs includes mission threads designed to measure network performance at all echelons, from the brigade commander down to the dismounted soldier. U.S. Army photo by Claire Heininger

Those identified gaps include:

  • Brigade/Battalion Command Post (CP) Mobility and Scalability;
  • Network Visualization on the Common Operational Picture (COP);
  • Aerial layer Network Extension – Provide assured access for terrestrial network;
  • Integrated Network Assurance – Network Access Control;
  • Energy sources with extended duration and power;
  • [Systems to] monitor and manage system power, supply and demand; and
  • Reducing reliance on petroleum based energy.

In outlining the recent “foreign vendors” announcement for next spring’s NIE 14.2, Col. Robert Carpenter, SoSI Director at Headquarters Department of the Army noted, “The Army will continue to operate in Joint and coalition settings and it is important that as the NIE process and integrated tactical network technologies continue to evolve that we include foreign vendor participation and innovation. Their contributions to the NIE process will help ensure that our scalable tactical network can meet the challenges of these environments.”

While the final NIE 14.2 objectives won’t be released until June, Carpenter provided an early glimpse at some of the likely areas “for planning purposes only.” That partial list includes:

  • Assess Joint Force network capabilities while conducting entry operations in order to inform Mission Partner Environment (MPE) conceptual development;
  • Continue to develop architectures, concepts and capabilities to improve unified land operations through the use of the aerial layer and network enabled integration of Army;
  • Validate the network’s ability to meet Fires’ messaging requirements under a full and operationally realistic network load; and
  • Develop capabilities to deliver, collect and process integrated, multi-source intelligence and relevant Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to the edge as part of the Service and joint environment.”

It is expected that NIE 14.2 will also include some level of participation by international mission partners.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...