As head of the U.S. Army’s Brigade Modernization Command, Brig. Gen. Randal Dragon is one of the service’s point men when it comes to biannual network integration evaluation (NIE) exercises. So when he says, “we’re really at a start point” with where the service wants to go with the event, it’s a significant statement.
NIE was designed to be an event that can change with operational requirements while addressing the needs of the overall force. Dragon explained how each event has already changed in its two years of existence.
For the NIE that kicked off Oct. 16, called NIE 13.1, Training and Doctrine Command’s Intelligence Support Activity (TRISA) played a large, if unheralded, role, helping to plan scenarios for the 3,800 soldiers of the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, to evaluate the radios, communication equipment and the network for Capability Set 13. This set is already in the hands of two Afghanistan-bound brigade combat teams from the 10th Mountain Division.
The Army is using simulation and live operations in 13.1, and Dragon said this type of scenario, “which at the company and troop level is situational training, with a simulated wraparound for the entire brigade,” is something the Army hopes to increase at 13.2, scheduled for next spring.
“When we get into the 14 series [in 2014], we’re really focused on increasing the joint intergovernmental interagency participation. I really see us moving in that direction,” he said. “We’ve been working the network hard over the past three NIEs,” Dragon added, and now his team is preparing to “take a hard look at joint fires, intelligence and the aerial tier through aerostats, UAVs and rotary wing aircraft” in upcoming evaluations.
The three maneuver battalions involved in the exercise will face a threat much like they faced during previous NIEs: a mix of state and nonstate actors, along with criminal elements and host-nation forces with whom they must decide how — or if — to partner. But this time, 2/1 will also partner with a simulated Marine Corps flank element linked to the NIE testing grounds at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., from Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Brig. Gen. Dan Hughes, the head of the Army’s System of Systems Integration office, backed up Dragon’s contention that the NIE will continue to change, saying that “every six months we can tune this up.”
The fall events each year “are going to be the shiny new object events,” where industry hands over to the Army the best new equipment it has for evaluation. The spring NIEs “are going to be the validation and verification of the network baseline” for the next round of capability sets.
Capability Set 13, which is deploying to two Afghanistan-bound brigades next summer, will also be issued to another brigade combat team yet to be determined. This year, Army leaders said a set was heading to the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea, but Hughes said discussions are ongoing as to where the set will be assigned.
Beginning in 2014, Capability Set 14 will be issued to four to six brigades, which will be the general pace for capability sets in subsequent years. Initially, the Army had planned on equipping eight brigades a year with the capability sets, starting in 2013.
This June, the Army submitted a $140 million omnibus reprogramming request to Congress to pay for the integration of new communications systems on combat vehicles for the first round of capability sets. Hughes said, “we’re trying not to do the reprogramming again, but there might have to be some of that” as requirements change.
“We’ve identified next year that we’re going to do Strykers and what goes into Capability Set 14 will be similar to what is in Capability Set 13, so we’re planning now to influence that early, and we believe that will limit the number of above-threshold reprogrammings we have to do,” he said.