Several reports have been already posted in this blog (1,2,3,4) discussing the results of the Network Integration Evaluation exercises, i.e. U.S. Army's semi-annual evaluations designed to integrate and mature the Army’s tactical network, as well as to evaluate deliberate and rapid acquisition solutions.
The NIEs are a series of field exercises involving about 4,000 Soldiers. Soldier feedback and test results from the NIEs are directly shaping the makeup of the U.S. Army's network Capability Set 13, which will begin fielding in fiscal year 2013 to up to eight brigade combat teams.
The last brief from U.S. Army highlights how during the recently concluded NIE 12.1, soldiers from U.S. Army's 2nd Brigade and 1st Armored Division, together with U.S. Army's system engineers, made progress toward integrating and streamlining network management capabilities into common standards.
Today, each component of the network -- such as a certain type of radio or satellite system -- is managed separately with its own software, hardware and human resources. But as the U.S. Army steps closer to fielding integrated sets of network capabilities to full brigade combat teams, the service is now aiming to manage the network holistically. The idea is to shift from multiple tools, each displaying data on a certain piece of the network, to a broad network operations framework that will aggregate that data into actionable information for the commander.
"Just as we will field the tactical network as an integrated capability, we must manage it as an integrated system within the brigade combat team," said Col. Dan Hughes, the Army's system of systems integration director. "NetOps will enable us to view the holistic integrated network baseline, so if the need to apply fixes in the field does occur, we can respond knowing how a specific fix may affect other network capability within the brigade. This integrated approach is new, so we are using the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) process to help hammer out technical and doctrinal issues as they arise."One new network management capability evaluated at the NIEs is the Warfighter Initialization Tool, known as WIT, developed by the U.S. Army's Product Director Tactical Network Initialization. The WIT is a user-friendly tool designed to enhance the signal officer's ability to configure and manage the unit task organization and network architecture for the commander. This collection of mission data, known as Data Products, is required to initialize networked systems, enabling end-to-end connectivity and interoperability across the tactical internet. The WIT will enable signal officers to update their "digital phone book" to reflect what occurs in theater, such as equipment or organizational changes like receiving a new communications technology or temporarily cross-attaching another unit. Commanders will be able to take a more hands-on approach, defining and adapting their network based on their fight. The tool will also provide senior commanders with a more accurate Common Operational Picture, or COP, that provides a single display of relevant information to multiple commands.
"For the first time we've got exposure on exactly how these tools do business and how we need to do business in order to get that visibility across the board," said Clifton Basnight, director of the Network Integration Service Center, which manages NETOPS at the NIEs. "We're trying to find ways of converging these tools so that we can provide not just data to a commander, but intelligence."
The Context (NetOps)
NetOps is defined as the U.S. DoD-wide operational, organizational, and technical capabilities for operating and defending the Global Information Grid (GIG), i.e. the globally interconnected set of DoD information capabilities that includes all U.S. DoD owned and leased communications and computing systems and services, software, data, security services, and other associated services necessary to achieve the Information Superiority. The GIG supports all Department of Defense, National Security, and related Intelligence Community missions and functions (strategic, operational, tactical, and business), in war and in peace. The GIG provides capabilities from all operating locations (bases, posts, camps, stations, facilities, mobile platforms, and deployed sites). The GIG provides interfaces to coalition, allied, and non-DoD users and systems.
NetOps influences all core segments of the GIG and associated capabilities, which encompasses Network Management as well as those associated with Information Transport, Enterprise Services and Information Assurance. By linking these operational, technical and programmatic perspectives to achieve integrated capabilities, NetOps assures the availability, protection and integrity of U.S. DoD networks, systems, services, and information.
NetOps is aimed to be able to routinely, rapidly, and accurately reallocate or reconfigure GIG resources, including elements such as information assurance devices, computing processing and storage capacities, and network throughputs to meet changing mission needs and threats. All NetOps tasks necessary to enable data access, information flow, and user collaboration across management boundaries or domains will be synchronized and executed at an appropriate level of detail. Commanders will be able to understand the state of the GIG as it relates to their missions and the associated tradeoffs in performance, security, and agility that could impact the mission. Warfighters and other users will be confident that the GIG can be tailored to meet their needs and can be leveraged to enhance the agility and effectiveness of their forces.
References: C4I Technology News (1,2,3,4), U.S. Army (5), DoDCIO (6)