PHILADELPHIA — The sophisticated threats Russia and China pose are a radical departure from those faced for years in the Middle East and underline the need to rapidly upgrade military networks and information sharing capabilities, the U.S. Army’s chief information officer said.

“The future battlefield is going to be very different from the last 20 years. The last 20 years have been, essentially, us fighting against insurgents, terrorists, ISIS, Taliban. And we’ve done tremendous efforts and we’ve had great progress and great impact,” CIO Raj Iyer said May 9 at a technical forum hosted by the service’s network modernization office. “But the next 10 years, or the next 20 years, is going to be against a near-peer adversary that’s technologically savvy.”

That shift away from small-scale precision counterterrorism and toward large-scale standoffs or confrontations with advanced foes means the U.S. cannot tarry.

“We’re not waiting for the Army of 2030,” Iyer said. “We’re not waiting to go build out some sophisticated, elaborate JADC2 solution or system. It’s all about operationalizing data now, today, for today’s fight.”

Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, represents the Department of Defense’s pursuit of a wholly interconnected military, where systems across the services are no longer incompatible and information can be shared widely, accurately and without delay. Officials say JADC2 is critical to win the fight of tomorrow, likely in an environment where communications are contested.

“You could have the world’s best weapon systems, you could have the world’s best army,” Iyer said. “But our advantage in the future is going to be how well and how quickly we’re able to synthesize large volumes of data and get it into the hands of the warfighter at all echelons.”

Achieving JADC2, however, will take time, money and serious problem-solving skills. Through major exercises and experimentation, like the annual Project Convergence, the Army hopes to get there.

“Moving into PC ‘22, there’s a heavy emphasis on data” and integration of platforms, Iyer said. “How well do they work together? How are we able to condense the kill chain?”

Like Iyer, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth has emphasized the need to embrace data, and quickly.

In a February message, Wormuth said the path to success “requires a commitment to innovation” and trying “new ways of operating.” The work done at Project Convergence, she continued, “is the kind of innovative approach we need to win the future fight.”

More than 100 pieces of cutting-edge tech were studied at PC ‘21, which featured nearly 1,500 participants from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Space Force. The Project Convergence scheduled later this year will incorporate allies and will focus on larger fights in both the Indo-Pacific and European theaters.

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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