Army to test new electronic capabilities for better network integration

May 23, 2011

The Army will begin a program next month to test integration of potentially new capabilities into the networks that carry voice and data from headquarters to soldiers on the battlefield.

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli told reporters Monday that for too long the Army has developed electronic capabilities without first seeing how they would work in existing networks. The result was that commanders overseas had to work out integration conflicts that developed while in the field.

“Our old processes do not keep up with the rapid pace of changing technologies and do not support our soldiers in harm’s way,” Chiarelli said. He called the planned upgrade of the network “the centerpiece of Army modernization.”

Beginning in June, Chiarelli said, integration testing on five programs will begin within a full brigade combat team that has been taken out of overseas rotation. The combat brigade will operate at Fort Bliss, Tex., a base the size of Connecticut that offers a variety of environments, including mountains and deserts. Many future tests are planned as well.

The Army also is crafting a new process to expand its electronic capabilities. It will involve seeking to fill gaps in capabilities as they arise but will require that suppliers work within the common operating environment used by the Army network.

“The network, and the business processes that support it, must be flexible and adaptive enough to permit easy integration of new capabilities and innovative and emerging technologies,” Chiarelli said.

One of the programs to be tested next month is the new hand-held joint tactical radio system, according to Paul D. Mehney of the Army’s office for integration of these systems. The system, much like a smartphone, connects the soldier to the overall network and can receive voice messages and data.

Another item for the June tests is called the Joint Capabilities Release, which would upgrade software for soldiers transmitting and receiving data, such as maps showing the location of friendly or enemy units.

Chiarelli emphasized that the tests will be ongoing and will involve different potential suppliers of equipment and services. “We want to discover what works and what doesn’t work,” he said.

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