WASHINGTON — It is time for the Pentagon to deliver on its joint war-fighting concept after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin signed off on foundational strategy behind Joint All-Domain Command and Control, the three-star leading the effort said Friday.
With the JADC2 strategy in place, the Pentagon and its military services can focus on building the network of networks it believes it needs to fight highly capable adversaries such as Russia and China, a fight powered by high-bandwidth, resilient communications networks that pass mass amounts of data to help commanders make fast decisions. Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, CIO/J6 of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon now has a document that ensures the services’ efforts are in “compliance [with] the direction that we set inside of JADC2.”
“This really starts our work. It’s now implementation time,” Crall told reporters. “Planning is good. Talk is good. Now it’s delivery time, and we’ve been given a clear signal to begin pushing these outcomes to the people who need them.”
Austin signed the strategy May 13, Crall said, and while the plan is classified, the Pentagon will share an unclassified version this summer. The concept of JADC2, in which data passes through secure networks to forces working together from any location, is how Pentagon leadership envisions potential battles against near-peer threats such as China and Russia.
JADC2, led by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, consists of a series of efforts by the military services: the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System, the Army’s Project Convergence and the Navy’s Project Overmatch. The strategy gives each of those projects a guiding foundation.
Before “we had no northern star,” Crall said. “So specifically, what it does now is allowed me to take that JADC2 strategy at a specific line of effort and place it directly over the top of this experimentation and vet it and say, ‘What parts of those are in compliance today and which parts are not?’”
Although the specifics are classified, top officials have provided insights into what the Pentagon needs to do to connect disparate battlefield systems. Brig. Gen. Rob Parker, the head of the JADC2 Joint Cross-Functional Team, said at an event hosted by the Army Network Cross-Functional Team on Wednesday that the strategy has five key lines of effort: data, human enterprise, technology, nuclear command and control, and the mission partner environment.
As the department starts to roll out JADC2, Crall said the services need to solve several issues. First, the DoD needs to settle on the definition of a federated data fabric, which is a data management environment with common standards and tools. Officials across the services and the Pentagon have worked on the issues since January, and the challenge, he said, is finding the balance between being too prescriptive and too open.
The department is also searching for identity and network access management tools that can verify users on the battlefield, while recognizing that it will have to improve cybersecurity by moving to a zero trust environment that inherently distrusts a user and requires repeated verification. It also needs software packages that are easily adaptable instead of software that’s “impossible to change,” Crall said.
“We need solutions that work on the tactical edge,” he said.
For JADC2 to be successful, Crall said the department will need to integrate and scale key technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive analytics, calling them “enabling requirements” for war fighters to have a decision-making advantage over adversaries.
Asked about some unfunded priorities the services sent to Congress after the release of the fiscal 2022 budget request that mentioned various JADC2-enabling programs, Crall said the he thinks the JADC2 efforts are “adequately resourced” to move forward for an experimentation phase.
It’s difficult to determine how much money the Pentagon plans to spend on JADC2 because the program is not a specific budget line, and programs across each service contribute to their respective war-fighting systems. For ABMS, the Air Force requested $204 million for FY22, a sizable bump from the program’s FY21 budget, but down from a projected $449 million the service previously said it expected to spend on the program in 2022. The Army plans to spend $106 million on Project Convergence, and several of its modernization programs, including its network team, that ultimately contribute to JADC2 would receive major funding boosts. The Navy’s Project Overmatch spending is classified across three research and development budget lines.
“It’s not about just doing everything we’re doing today exactly as we’re doing it, and then adding something new,” Crall said. “I think we need to be really smart about the way we move forward and utilize the resources we’re given smartly.”
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.