Army's technology test-bed event facing changes

NIE start date delayed, as Army officials mull changes in focus and frequency going forward.

The Army has delayed the start date for Network Integration Evaluation 14, an extended event at Fort Bliss, Texas, to test technologies for rapid deployment to the battlefield.

The Army's twice-yearly event centered on testing new technologies for rapid deployment into combat is slated to undergo some changes, starting with a delayed opening.

Network Integration Evaluation 14.1 was scheduled to start Oct. 22, but is being pushed back a week because the 16-day government shutdown halted preparations. But the event still will end on time, around Nov. 14, according to an Army official overseeing NIE, which takes place at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Michael McCarthy, director of operations at Army Brigade Modernization Command, said some testing and evaluation will be compressed and the event will continue over the Veteran's Day weekend, when operations normally would stop.

"There's no slack time in the schedule," McCarthy said.

The delayed start likely is just the beginning of changes for NIE, with funding cuts, the war in Afghanistan winding down and different requirements coming into play. But officials insist the program will continue.

"NIE is on the books," Lt. Gen. James Barclay, Army deputy chief of staff, said Oct. 22 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. "There is a question of whether it's one time or two times [a year]. That's part of getting to decide what we are trying to get out of this program. We continually self-evaluate NIE and what it brings to us. It's doing very well as we're moving forward with those reviews. Not that it will not change some in the future.... That's part of sitting down and understanding what our goals are for this program in the future."

Some of the changes include an increased focus on capabilities and a decreased emphasis on the IT side of things, as well as the incorporation of mission partners, McCarthy said.

"There are a number of things under consideration," he said. "A big piece is taking a more focused look at capability sets as opposed to networks, expanding that aperture. Another thing is that scenarios have been focused on wide-area security missions, what we're doing in theater. Now it's going back to full-spectrum operations with large-unit maneuvers. So [we] will see some changes over time with what scenarios look like, and more of a joint and coalition flavor over the next couple of NIEs."

Among the potential new participants are the other military services, including the Marine Corps, and international partners, McCarthy added.

Barclay emphasized that NIE has continued support from the Army's top leadership. His endorsement was echoed by Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology.

"NIE has helped us incorporate soldier feedback; that's the No. 1 most important thing we've gotten out of that," Shyu said. "We now understand what we need to modify and change to improve utilization.... It has also shaped our acquisition strategy on a number of important programs."

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