WASHINGTON — U.S. senators are looking beyond Russia and the current conflict in Eastern Europe and want the Pentagon’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control vision for cross-service coordination ready for a possible face-off with China in the Indo-Pacific.
The lawmakers in a recently filed version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act instructed Defense Department leadership to focus on the build out of a joint headquarters for JADC2 alongside U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, or INDOPACOM, in Hawaii.
JADC2 is the Pentagon’s concept for a wholly connected military, one in which information flows quickly, securely and accurately across land, air, sea, space and cyber. The U.S. hopes to edge out advanced adversaries — namely China and Russia — with the seamless battlefield links. By establishing the JADC2 base in the Pacific, the U.S. would be prepared to stand up to threats from China with a fully integrated response, the senators said.
“From China’s emergence as our most consequential strategic competitor to Russia’s assault on Ukraine, the challenges before us are momentous,” Sen. Jack Reed, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, said in a statement July 18.
“To ensure our technological superiority,” he said, the latest NDAA “strengthens our cyber, hypersonic, and artificial intelligence capabilities, giving our forces advantages on the battlefields of the future.”
The sought-after JADC2 capabilities must span services and platforms, according to the measure, which would also require at least one demonstration per quarter beginning in fiscal 2023. The demonstrations should be folded into existing, realistic exercises including Valiant Shield, Northern Edge and others involving INDOPACOM, it said.
The ninth iteration of Valiant Shield wrapped June 17, after a dozen days of joint operations at sea, in the air, on land and across cyberspace.
On its heels, several companies advertised technologies used in the exercise that may bring JADC2 to life. Raytheon Technologies, for example, demonstrated data collection on a simulated sea-based threat and the sharing of target information with defense systems scattered across the western Pacific. The company hailed it as “a key test” of its infrastructure.
And while the idea for a JADC2 headquarters and other recommendations were made public in June, when the Senate Armed Services Committee released a summary of its defense legislation, the full text imparts greater granularity and a sense of oversight from senators. Questions about JADC2 schedule and feasibility abound, likely why senators embedded reporting requirements and strict deadlines in their legislation.
Why is Asia important for JADC2?
Expanded testing in the Pacific, to jointly assess Army, Navy and Air Force contributions to JADC2, is in line with a recommendation made by Doug Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, and related analysis from one expert.
Bush at a July 11 event in McLean, Virginia, floated a large-scale exercise that would put products of the Army’s Project Convergence, the Navy’s Project Overmatch and the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System to the test in a manner that doesn’t yet exist.
“We’re seeing feasibility of connecting across the joint force using current systems and future systems,” Bush said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s All Domain Warfare Symposium. “Scale is really important, taking it to the next level to actually understand what the network could support in a contested environment.”
Such an exhibit, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute think tank, should be led by INDOPACOM and closely consider the challenges faced by generals and admirals.
“Putting the combatant commander in charge of the exercise under a bottom-up approach to JADC2 will help make sure the right force elements are being integrated around INDOPACOM’s priority problems,” Clark told C4ISRNET on July 12. “This is in large part why the draft NDAA includes direction for INDOPACOM to establish a standing joint force headquarters to lead JADC2 efforts.”
The U.S. considers the Indo-Pacific essential as it and other nations work to thwart China’s global ambitions. The White House in February published its Indo-Pacific strategy, which pledged deepened trade relations and investment, military innovation across space and cyber and grander international partnerships to dissuade and defeat aggression.
“Our collective efforts over the next decade will determine whether the PRC succeeds in transforming the rules and norms that have benefitted the Indo-Pacific and the world,” the document reads. “For our part, the United States is investing in the foundations of our strength at home, aligning our approach with those of our allies and partners abroad, and competing with the PRC to defend the interests and vision for the future that we share with others.”
The region is home to more than half the world’s people and a handful of the world’s largest militaries. It also includes Taiwan, a Sino-American flashpoint, and several close U.S. allies: Australia, Japan and South Korea.
Those relationships will be critical moving forward, said Ely Ratner, the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs.
“The United States’ ability to pursue common security and economic goals with like-minded nations is the cornerstone of our success and at the root of our strategy,” Ratner said, according to a recent Defense Department recap of some of his remarks. “For the U.S. military specifically, our defense relationships and our ability to bind them more tightly together into more deeply interoperable coalitions can make clear the costs of aggression.”
Key to the realization of JADC2 is the creation and upkeep of a modern mission-partner environment, in which data from a range of friendly militaries can be accessed and acted upon quickly. Exactly how foreign systems interact with American systems is a critical consideration for those modernizing the Army’s networks, officials told C4ISRNET.
“We will never fight alone again,” Brig. Gen. Jeth Rey, the director of the Network Cross-Functional Team, said April 20. “We will always fight with our coalition partners, so it’s important that we find a way to share data.”
What is happening in Congress on JADC2?
Members of the House this year requested a review of JADC2 implementation and price, as well as in-depth inventories from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. The evaluations will inform future support — they will “gauge the state of play,” House staff said last month — and are not meant to be punitive.
“JADC2 is a very complex undertaking, and there are a lot of pieces that all need to come out together in order to create this capability that the department is depending on,” said one staff member, who asked not to be identified. “The services have their specific efforts that may be succeeding or encountering challenges, each on their own merits, and they’re supposed to net together into this cohesive whole.”
To guide JADC2, the Pentagon penned a formal strategy and implementation plan and assembled a cross-functional team to serve as shepherd.
An eight-page unclassified summary of the strategy was issued in March, leaving some with more questions than answers.
The implementation plan remains secret. It is also considered a fluid document that will be amended to reflect U.S. success and failures and incorporate shifting threats, according to Arsenio “Bong” Gumahad, director of the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance division in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment.
The implementation plan informed fiscal 2023 budget blueprints, reporters were told in March. At the time, no overall cost was available for JADC2. Public estimates are hard to come by, as the vision spans many programs and ducks into classified territory.
“The document will evolve,” Gumahad said at a symposium in McLean last month. “It’s a living document, it’s not going to be stagnant or static.”
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.