MCLEAN, Va. — A proposed exercise to assess progress made on the Pentagon’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control vision for seamless communications across the military should be driven by the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, according to one expert.

Doug Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, this week suggested the massive exercise, saying the time is right to put the evolving JADC2 capabilities of the Army, Air Force, Navy and others through the crucible.

“We’re seeing feasibility of connecting across the joint force using current systems and future systems,” Bush said July 11 at a National Defense Industrial Association symposium. “Scale is really important, taking it to the next level to actually understand what the network could support in a contested environment.”

The idea comes amid questions about JADC2 coordination and a push by Congress to audit the endeavor. House lawmakers in June included a review of JADC2 implementation in a version of the annual defense bill, saying it was “unclear” what will actually be delivered, when it will arrive and how much it will ultimately cost.

Bryan Clark, a senior fellow and director of the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at the Hudson Institute, a think tank focused on national security issues, told C4ISRNET that a large-scale JADC2 exercise is needed and should not be a one-off. The tests, he said, should take a bottom-up approach that considers the hurdles faced by INDOPACOM.

“For one, that will help focus the exercise on challenges the combatant commanders are facing, rather than service or Joint Staff equities, and two, it will provide a joint context that will help define how the services should be working together,” he said. “One of the main problems with the current JADC2 approach is it is driven from the top down by the Joint Staff and service headquarters, both of which are working toward long-term interoperability solutions rather than near-term ways to integrate the force.”

JADC2 represents a revamp of military communications, the forging of rapid, hardened links between land, air, sea, space and cyber forces. Defense leaders say the overhaul is needed to beat technically advanced rivals such as China and Russia.

The Army, Air Force and Navy have their own experiments and contributions to JADC2: Project Convergence, the Advanced Battle Management System and Project Overmatch, respectively. Each aims, in its own way, to connect siloed systems and incrementally improve data sharing.

Chiefs from the Army, Air Force, Space Force, Navy and Marine Corps met on June 24 to discuss their related efforts. The meeting focused on synchronizing “all aspects of JADC2,” including the development of concepts of operations, or how capabilities will be applied on the battlefield, according to the Air Force.

Such an approach “allows for learning,” Clark said. Any large-scale JADC2 exercise “will need to take a similar tack,” he added, “which points to the need for DoD to substantially increase the funding and forces made available for experimentation. Today, less than 1% of the DoD budget goes to experimentation.”

Senators this year recommended an additional $245 million for JADC2 as well as the creation of a joint force headquarters at INDOPACOM by October 2024, according to a draft of the annual defense bill.

The U.S. sees the Pacific as a key strategic region, as Washington works to counter China’s growing influence. The White House Indo-Pacific Strategy, published in February, pledges an extended role in the area, including establishing more resilient command and control and increasing the scope of joint exercises and operations.

Brig. Gen. John Olson, the Air Force’s chief data and artificial intelligence officer, at the July 11 symposium said the conversations with the other services have proven fruitful.

“We had all five service chiefs talking JADC2 for two hours, and the level of commonality between the Department of the Navy and the Department of the Air Force and the Army, I mean, it’s just better than I’ve ever seen it,” Olson said. “We’ve identified some very key challenges.”

Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its NNSA — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

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