The Defense Department and the military services operate an extensive enterprise of development and operational test and evaluation ranges and facilities.
When looking at the national defense strategy, Brian Hall, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for developmental test and evaluation, said readers should think "big picture." And the development T&E sites are definitely "big picture," with big facilities to conduct big tests.
According to Hall, the Defense Department has more than 500 test and training ranges, with 23 of them considered the "critical core," and are collectively known as the major range and test facility base. "If we lost one of those, we would lose a major national asset to test some commodity of systems."
The enterprise is large. "Within the [base], there's about 22,000 square miles of land; 336 square miles of air-space; 381 square miles of sea range; and a workforce of 23,000 people, not counting the defense acquisition T&E workforce or the folks in the operational test commands," Hall said.
The ranges are located in different parts of the country, and tend to specialize in different types of testing. They all have the challenges of safety, security and introducing new types of technology, and having a qualified workforce to operate the ranges and conduct the testing.
"Each of the ranges are designed to perform a specific mission set that is consistent with that military service's needs and the commodity of weapons systems that they need to test and evaluate there," Hall said.
The military services coordinate and leverage the use of these capabilities, which are often highly specialized. "There's sharing of the test capabilities in the department, not just between the military services, but also across the federal government," Hall said. "It's an enterprise endeavor."
Test and evaluation includes developmental, operational, integrated and live fires. "Developmental tests and evaluation are the most valuable source of data to inform design improvements and production readiness, whereas OT&E--or operational test and evaluation--is the most valuable source of data to inform combat readiness," Hall said. "Integrated T&E generally refers to how we leverage contractor testing and government testing, and it also refers to how we can leverage efficiencies between developmental and operational testing. Live-fire test and evaluation informs assessments of DoD systems, their vulnerability and the lethality of those...