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Network Integration Evaluation may feel budget sting

Apr. 4, 2013 - 11:18AM   |  
Sgt. Ryan Bomze, Spc. Stephen House and Cpl. William Crichton of 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, stop to check the latest intelligence during Network Integration Evaluation 13.1 NIE may be downsized.
Sgt. Ryan Bomze, Spc. Stephen House and Cpl. William Crichton of 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, stop to check the latest intelligence during Network Integration Evaluation 13.1 NIE may be downsized. (Army)
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As the armed services massage their budgets to accommodate the impact of sequestration, not even the Army’s well-received network testing exercises will go unscathed.

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As the armed services massage their budgets to accommodate the impact of sequestration, not even the Army’s well-received network testing exercises will go unscathed.

The Network Integration Evaluation, the Army’s twice-yearly exercise at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., which puts communications technologies to the test, could be downsized, limiting participation by vehicles and systems, an Army source said.

In addition, the Army would be forced to reduce contract support for integration, field service representatives and data collectors, slashing the operational test scenarios conducted by soldiers. Industry participation therefore could be reduced, and fewer systems would be evaluated.

However, Congress has passed a continuing resolution that funds the government for the rest of this fiscal year and allows the Defense Department to transfer money between accounts. Without that authority, the Army would have been “unable to commence competition and production of 223 Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radios, which are crucial to the strategy to provide networked communications to platforms in combat operations,” according to written testimony submitted by the Army’s chief weapon buyer, Heidi Shyu, and Lt. Gen. James Barclay, deputy chief of staff of the Army, G-8, to Congress on Feb. 28.

The MNVR program has seen some schedule slippages and will not be involved in NIE 13.2 in May because the effort is still in source selection by the program manager.

The Army has received positive feedback on its NIE program from Congress and the Government Accountability Office — a rare occurrence for an Army acquisition program — and the service’s senior leadership has long identified it as a top priority. The exercise has led to some buying decisions, mostly for a variety of non-program-of-record systems for rapid fielding to Afghanistan, including Harris’ 117G radios, and smaller items, such as antennas.

The threat to the NIE comes as the Army is putting the final touches on fielding its Warfighter Information Network-Tactical to a combat zone for the first time after years of testing at White Sands, and having survived the now-scuttled Future Combat Systems modernization project.

The 3rd and 4th brigades of the 10th Mountain Division have trained up on Capability Set 13, which includes WIN-T along with its radios and other mission command-enabling technologies and will head to Afghanistan this year. The Army is working on an upgraded Capability Set 14.

The goal is to allow dismounted soldiers to transmit voice and chat communications, along with situational awareness data, throughout the brigade.

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