New initiatives critical in network testing and evaluation
AUSA’s Institute of Land Warfare recently released a new publication titled "U.S. Army Operational Testing and Evaluation: Laying the Foundation for the Army of 2020" (Torchbearer National Security Report, October 2012).
The report explores the unique combination of traditional methods and new initiatives that the Army employs to ensure that its soldiers continue to be the best-equipped in the world.
Operational testing and evaluation is not a new concept for the Army, whose time-honored methods demonstrate that a reliable, interoperable, broadly capable tactical network would be a tremendous advantage against the hybrid threats that have become commonplace in the world today.
In addition, the Army must be able to adjust, adapt and rapidly field other new technologies – and develop and implement corresponding training and doctrine – to keep ahead of creative adversaries.
In 2011, the Army began a series of tests – called Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs) – designed to mature the network holistically.
The NIE is a crucible, a melting pot of experimentation and evaluation, through which the Army can quickly assess promising new technologies by boiling them down under realistic pressure to perform.
Among the lessons that the Army has absorbed through the NIE process is that it is now better able to understand and value the perspective of its industry partners – a shared perspective that combines to drive down costs for both parties while saving time and developing more appropriate solutions.
The Army also employs many other methods, such as forward operational assessment (FOA) teams who deploy to combat zones, to gain instant feedback and incorporate battlefield experience in its testing, evaluation and acquisition processes.
The participation of soldiers at every turn of the NIE process continues to pay tremendous dividends.
Overall, since its inception, the NIE construct has saved the Army approximately $6 billion – a return on investment of 10 times the actual cost.
Soldiers have the opportunity to gain practical experience with new technologies before they deploy, integrating new gear and guaranteeing system compatibility and reliability ahead of time.
The most recent NIE (NIE 12.2, conducted during spring 2012) was a significant milestone in the evolution of Army operational testing and evaluation, defining an entire system of network hardware and software that has since become available for fielding to the force as a whole capability package (Capability Set 13).
The successful performance of the technology in its final operational test validated several important lessons for the Army’s future:
The network can push critical technological tools to the edge – to small tactical units.
Platforms that enable mission command on the move offer tremendous capability to gain initiative and attack threats from multiple vantage points.
The tactical network is reliable over great distances and can support a high operational tempo under realistic pressure.
The network consistently provides commanders with actionable intelligence and other information via redundant pathways.
NIE 13.1, set to begin in late fall 2012, will constitute another giant step forward. Testing will be conducted at a total of seven sites at the same time.
It will be the most joint NIE to date, including greater U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force participation.
There is even greater potential yet to be realized.
The NIE construct makes possible the ability to conduct joint training and develop joint doctrine across vast geographic areas – a particularly relevant opportunity, given the services’ rebalance toward the Pacific region.
The Army’s operational testing and evaluation initiatives are critical not only for the Army but for the entire joint force.
This foundation ensures that American soldiers will have technological overmatch against any future competitor and should never have to fight a fair fight.