WASHINGTON — Understanding what information U.S. allies are willing to share and how they intend to distribute it will be critical to military success in the Indo-Pacific region, according to the general in charge of the Army’s network modernization efforts.
“We’re dealing with a lot of countries in that theater,” Maj. Gen. Jeth Rey, who leads the Network Cross-Functional Team, told reporters during a roundtable at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, in late August. “And the sharing of information in order to get after our adversaries? It’s paramount.”
Conversations regarding information exchange and future collaboration are happening as the U.S. Defense Department labels China a premier national security threat. A succinct summary of the latest National Defense Strategy describes China and Russia as the two most significant threats, with the former posing a longer-term danger.
Washington maintains an advantage over Beijing in the Indo-Pacific because of a constellation of friendly, helpful nations, Pentagon officials say. The immense region is home to more than half the world’s population, some of its biggest ports and a handful of its largest militaries.
Its geography presents unique challenges: vast distances that strain connectivity, a lack of NATO infrastructure, and transportation largely dependent on air and sea, according to Col. Adam Sanderson with the I Corps, an Army headquarters that manages more than 44,000 soldiers stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state and across the Pacific, including in Hawaii and Alaska.
The Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy, published in February, stressed the need to beef up lines of communication in the neighborhood as well as deepen relationships, old and new.
“Consistent with our broader strategic approach, we will prioritize our single greatest asymmetric strength: our network of security alliances and partnerships,” it stated. “Across the region, the United States will work with allies and partners to deepen our interoperability and develop and deploy advanced warfighting capabilities as we support them in defending their citizens and their sovereign interests.”
Late last month, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Indian Minister of External Affairs Subramanyam Jaishankar at the Pentagon and spoke with Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh by phone. Austin noted India and the U.S., the world’s largest democracies, regularly communicate, especially in the wake of a geospatial agreement signed in 2020.
“Today, we are positioning the U.S. and Indian militaries to operate and coordinate more closely together than ever,” Austin said in a statement Sept. 27. “We’re taking significant steps to deepen our defense cooperation from stronger information sharing and defense industrial ties to cooperation in emerging defense domains, including through the launch of a new dialogue later this year.”
The remarks come as the Army overhauls its networks — one of six service modernization priorities — and attempts to bring to life a broader Pentagon concept dubbed Joint All-Domain Command and Control. JADC2 aims to link the military services and their disparate data systems to more quickly and more appropriately respond to aggression.
The Army’s contribution to JADC2 is Project Convergence, a capstone test of technologies and equipment. This year’s event will focus on both Indo-Pacific and European scenarios. It will also for the first time directly involve international players, including the U.K. and Australia. Canada is expected to observe, Defense News reported.
Rey told C4ISRNET in April the blunt challenge posed by Project Convergence this year is “whether or not we can actually share that data with our partners across the board, and then put some steel on the targets.” The Army in June said it verified that military services and international forces participating in Project Convergence 22 can exchange information and connect over long distances — a major milestone.
A critical aspect of both network modernization and JADC2 is the so-called Mission Partner Environment, which allows data from a range of militaries to be collated, secured, shared and acted upon. The environment is on the radars of the Network Cross-Functional Team, the service’s Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical, and other Army entities.
“It really comes down to: What is the country willing to share?” Rey said in August. “Once we can really, truly identify that, then we can get after the ability to share, whether it’s fires data, intel data or sustainment data.”
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.