Design Center evaluates tactical communications systems

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Since its stand up in October 2011, the Army’s System of Systems Integration Directorate has lead the Army’s integration efforts and served as a key acquisition team manager supporting the service’s new acquisition model known as the Agile Process.

Leading this effort from its headquarters at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., System of Systems Integration Directorate, or SoSI, spearheads the material and configuration management of the Army’s Network Integration Evaluations, known as NIEs, synchronizes the fielding of Capability Set Management, leads vehicle integration efforts and serves as the single interface to industry during the NIE/Agile process.

The NIEs are a series of semi-annual, soldier-driven evaluations at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M., designed to further integrate and rapidly mature the tactical communications network.

SoSI, along with the Brigade Modernization Command and the Army Test and Evaluation Command, are part of the NIE "triad," who manage and execute the NIEs.

SoSI synchronizes the implementation and fielding of Capability Set 13, or CS 13, the first integrated package of network equipment and software that for the first time will deliver an integrated voice and data capability throughout an entire brigade combat team formation – from the commander down to the dismounted soldier.

CS 13 was validated during NIE 12.2, the third iteration in the NIE series.

"So we’re the folks that actually are bringing that capability down to the individual soldier," Brig. Gen. Dan Hughes, director, SoSI, said.

Adding, "And that’s why the System of Systems Integration Directorate is so critical to the Army right now. The network enables the soldier."

To get the best capabilities into the hands of soldiers, SoSI brings together the Army programs responsible for different pieces of network equipment and ensures their products inter-operate so soldiers can communicate across different echelons, and brings small and large industry partners into the NIE process.

SoSI’s Futures Directorate, located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, solicits solutions to known capability gaps from industry and government organizations for potential participation in the NIE process, leads a team of stakeholders in assessing the responses to the Army’s solicitations and proposes candidates to be evaluated in an NIE.

SoSI then evaluates and integrates those potential solutions in the laboratories and facilities located at the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or C4ISR, campus at Aberdeen, prior to sending the systems to Fort Bliss or White Sands Missile Range to undergo an operational assessment at the NIE.

The integration and assessment laboratories at Aberdeen serve as a powerful risk-reduction resource by ensuring NIE candidate systems are integrated and field-ready prior to testing.

By replicating the NIE network in the lab environment, engineers can resolve integration issues before systems get to the field.

With the recent launch of the C4ISR Systems Integration Laboratory, or CSIL, SoSI and other NIE team members are able to identify and resolve bugs and ensure configuration settings and mission threads are validated prior to the field evaluation.

The advanced laboratory environment also benefits industry by allowing engineers to assess, evaluate and integrate new capabilities onto current and next generation tactical networks, and to plug their systems into the holistic Army network and discover any interoperability challenges – eliminating this burden on soldiers during NIE.

"These labs enable us to take a look at system integration readiness, maturity and initial performance prior to the start of the NIE," Hughes said.

"We get an early look at how a system will integrate into the NIE network baseline, which is invaluable because it greatly eases the integration burden prior to a system arriving at Fort Bliss for hand over to the unit," he added.

"We’ve seen this process get better and better every time, and we’re not only getting smarter, we’re becoming better consumers," Hughes said referring to the Army’s NIEs/Agile Process.

"The network is key to keeping our soldiers up to date. The network is key to the Army of 2020," he noted.