Army officials: Agile, in-field testing here to stay

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Rapid acquisition, facilitated by Network Integration Evaluations, is a core part of Army's modernization efforts, said Army officials during a Sept. 27 AFCEA DC event in Arlington, Va. NIEs allow Army to test the integration of network components simultaneously in one operational venue.

"This is not a science project," said Col. John Morrison, director of LandWarNet/Battle Command, while stressing the importance of codifying agile strategies in order to "nest it with other policies."

"We see this as something systemic and part of how we deliver capabilities from now on," said Morrison.

The first NIE was held in July 2011 at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M. According to Army, the evaluations will be semiannual and the next NIE is scheduled for October.

During the July NIE the 2nd Brigade Combat Team and the 1st Armored Division conducted 6 weeks worth of tests of six Army programs of record and 29 emerging networked and non-networked technologies.

In a test of mobile devices at the first NIE, soldiers preferred a ruggedized version of a commercial, Android device over the Army-created device built specifically for task in the test scenario, said Morrison. The commercial device would need tweaking and security upgrades in order to meet the soldiers' needs, but "it gave us a feel for what right looked like," said Morrison. "This is what we want to get to."

Overall, Army is looking to adopt more common items, which will provide the service greater flexibility. Right now the Army is extremely specific on the quantities and capabilities it needs, said Col. Anthony Williams, chief of Army Battle Command Division Directorate of Material Force Development/G8.

"We need to be less specific...sometimes we're painting ourselves into a box," said Williams. The adoption of Defense departmentwide standards will only advance Army's goal of eventually offering a "Chinese menu of options" to acquisition chiefs, said Williams.

"There is no air between us," asserted Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, the Army chief information officer/G6, referring to her tight coordination with DoD CIO Teri Takai, Navy CIO Terry Halvorson and Air Force CIO Gen. William Lord.

Unifying computer access cards across the services and departmentwide cybersecurity are the two major issues the CIOs are coordinating on, said Lawrence.

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