WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. -- The Army estimates it has already saved $6 billion by canceling under performing programs through soldier feed back during the Network Integration Evaluation.
Army officials have trotted out that figure since Capitol Hill has raised questions about how much the Army is spending to running the NIE that Army leadership says is vital to the stand up of its next generation Network -- the service's top modernization priority.
Army Lt. Gen. William Phillips, military deputy to the Army’s acquisition executive, has said the Army "can't afford not to run the Network Integration Evaluation." But the price tag to stand up and operate the NIE has totaled $600 million. Facing a half a trillion dollar cut to the defense budget, Congress is asking what it's getting for its money.
Col. Dan Hughes, director of Systems of Systems Integration, said Congress is receiving a ten-to-0ne return on its investment. He highlighted the decisions to strip out portions of the Early-Infantry Brigade Combat Team program such as the Unattended Ground Sensors and the Class 1 Unmanned Air System, which he said saved the Army $4 billion. The service saved another $800 million when it cut Nett Warrior down from the unwieldy 12-pound wearable computer to the smartphones soldiers are currently testing.
"We're better shoppers now," Hughes said.
That's not to say the Army isn't working to cut the NIE's operating budget. The Army will cut the NIE's operating budget by 10 percent next year. Hughes said cutting costs shouldn't be a problem.
NIE officials have picked out specific areas that can be run more efficiently. For example, the Army had to hire more data collectors because they were tabulating exercise results on paper. Since moving to electronic tablets that input the results directly into databases, the Army can pay fewer collectors.
"We keep learning ways in which we can make this more affordable but still get the same result," Hughes said.
Army officials expect to find more savings from the feedback from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry division soldiers running the NIE over the past five weeks. Hughes doesn't expect the Army to ax another major program, but he said the service will find savings by trimming and integrating technological advances to current systems.
"We will see more savings to drive down the cost of the systems," Hughes said.