WASHINGTON — Congress wants the Pentagon to clarify which office is responsible for each aspect of the department’s new joint warfighting concept as the idea of connecting any sensor to any shooter gains traction throughout the military.
Under the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, released Dec. 3, top Pentagon leaders would be required to provide quarterly briefings to congressional defense committees on the progress the department is making on Joint All-Domain Command and Control. The DoD chief information officer, vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and a senior military service representative for each military service would have to brief Congress.
JADC2, also known as Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control (CJADC2), is an effort to connect the services across battlefield networks to ensure multi-domain communication against a near-peer adversary, such as China. Much of the fiscal 2021 NDAA focuses on countering and deterring the Chinese military threat.
Each service has been developing its own solution to accomplish JADC2, which is officially an Air Force-led concept. The Air Force’s program is called the Advanced Battle Management System, the Army’s is Project Convergence, while the Navy’s is known as Project Overmatch. In an effort to coordinate the JADC2 effort, the Pentagon has a Joint All-Domain Command and Control cross-functional team.
According to the legislation, lawmakers want the services to clarify “distribution of responsibilities and authorities within the Cross Functional Team, the Armed Forces, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense with respect to JADC2, and how the Armed Forces, the Cross Functional Team, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense are synchronizing and aligning with joint and military concepts, solutions, experimentation, and exercises.
The bill said Congress wants Pentagon brass to brief lawmakers starting Oct. 21, 2021 on the status of JADC2, how the effort is “identifying gaps and addressing validated requirements,” and what progress the department has made on plans to “evaluate and implement materiel and non-materiel improvements to command and control capabilities.”
In addition, Congress wants the briefings to include reports on resource allocation to accomplish JADC2, as well as an assessment of planned funding for the development of JADC2 capabilities.
In another section, Congress directs the Pentagon’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council, a Defense Department office that reviews and approve joint programs, to validate JADC2 requirements by April 1, 2021. After the validation, the Air Force chief of staff must submit a certification to defense committees of that programs and architectures under development for joint warfighting will meet JROC requirements. By July 1, all other service chiefs of staff must send similar certifications to defense committees providing assurance that their joint warfighting concepts will be compatible with JADC2.
The bill also directs the defense secretary to incorporate the expected costs for full development and implementation of JADC2 in the fiscal 2022 budget request.
The department also faces challenges with system interoperability. Each of the military services are building out their joint warfighting concepts individually and there are plans to plug these systems together next year. One provision in the NDAA directs the under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, JADC2 cross-functional team and director of command, control, communications, and computers/cyber to issue regulations and guidance to the DoD enterprise for use of modular open systems. This approach could allow for easy interfacing between systems and the rapid deployment of new capabilities.
“Modularity is especially important to enhance interoperability and to support combining and recombining systems in novel and surprising ways to achieve the vision of joint all-domain warfare and the emerging joint warfighting concept,” the NDAA conferees wrote in the accompanying explanatory language.
The Army and Air Force recently decided to tackle interfacing and standards challenges in a recent agreement to collaborate on what they dubbed CJADC2.
Lawmakers expressed concern about previous Pentagon attempts to adopt universal standards and warned that slow adoption could harm operations.
“Even if the new initiatives proposed within the DOD research and engineering community overcome these problems, incompatible interfaces will remain numerous for many years to come, hampering joint, multi-domain operations,” the explanatory language stated.
The conferees pointed to one potential solution in a program from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that can autogenerate code that can help disparate systems communicate with each other.
DARPA has “repeatedly demonstrated technology to auto-generate code to enable full interoperability across interfaces not built to any standard once they have been appropriately defined and characterized in machine-readable formats,” the explanatory language reads.
The program, called System-of-systems Technology Integration Tool Chain for Heterogeneous Electronic Systems (STITCHES), has had more than dozen successful demonstrations, the conferees noted. Those demonstrations “appear to show that the cost is minimal and that the time required to achieve interoperability between previously incompatible systems is measured in hours and days, not months and years,” the explanatory language read.
“DARPA’s tests and field demonstrations to date indicate that this technology does not introduce latencies or otherwise constrain performance, in contrast to so called ‘translation’ approaches to interface interoperability,” conferees wrote.
The conferees wrote they are “interested in further examination” of the technology and directs the department to continue to test the technology on incompatible systems with U.S European Command or U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.