The Indo-Pacific region is experiencing significant geopolitical shifts, including China’s rapid expansion of its nuclear forces and increased provocations. The U.S. is committed to deterrence, though, and is supported by a long list of allies, the majority of whom have deepened their ties to Washington in recent years.

The U.S. Department of Defense has voiced its commitment to delivering a U.S. presence in the region that is “mobile, distributed, resilient, and lethal,” while President Joe Biden has declared that the future of the world hinges on a free and open Indo-Pacific.

However, collaboration with allies in the region poses unique challenges for U.S. agencies. The sheer number of partners working together in the Indo-Pacific can make rapid, secure communication difficult. From a technical standpoint, the region’s diverse environments, from open oceans to densely populated areas, also pose challenges.

As the DoD works to limit conflict, and with $1.4 billion in funding set aside to support Combined Joint All Domain Command and Control (CJADC2) efforts in 2024, agencies must invest in technology that enables real-time intelligence-sharing to ensure security in the region.

Success in the Indo-Pacific

In any tactical environment, success and security hinge on the ability of the military and its partners to quickly understand and respond to changes on the battlefield. The addition of the “C” for “Combined” in the newly renamed CJADC2 underscores the importance of collaborative warfare and the need for command-and-control capabilities that can support communication not just between branches, but between allied mission partners.

The Pentagon’s CJADC2 efforts are a signal to China, experts say, especially as China pursues its own version known as Multi-Domain Precision Warfare. While the DoD has achieved a basic form of JADC2, additional challenges arise when it comes to implementing partner collaboration. According to a top general in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), the network environment across nations is not currently “agile, targetable, robust, or secure.” At times, information-sharing is done manually, he said: “[the process] is literally someone reading a chat and writing on another keyboard to transfer that data from one partner to the other.”

For the U.S. and its partners to be successful in the Indo-Pacific region, such manual processes must be eliminated. Authenticated users must be able to access information across multiple networks seamlessly and quickly—without the need for separate workstations or network connectivity for each classification level. The DoD already uses cross-domain technology like data guards and diodes for the internal transfer of information—i.e. taking information gathered at the intelligence level and moving it to the U.S. secret level. It must do the same for information shared with Indo-Pacific mission partners.

The benefits of connectivity

When information is shared between classification levels and mission partners, it ensures all units are acting on intel that is consistent and in-sync. But such data sharing must be done without divulging sensitive assets and capabilities. To that end, deep data inspection and validation must take place. If intel is downgraded and transferred from a U.S. classified network to a mission partner environment, for instance, sensitive details must be stripped out, so the partner only receives the most pertinent information, such as the coordinates of an adversary.

Ideally, data sharing should be able to happen at the tactical edge as well. Sensors continue get more sophisticated and collect larger amounts of data at multiple security levels. This makes it unrealistic for everything to be pushed back to a centralized location for cross-domain transfer and processing, as doing so clogs networks and hurts latency. When multilevel devices, such as Commercial Solutions for Classified enabled laptops, are equipped with cross-domain technology, users can access multiple coalition environments and networks simultaneously from a single terminal or laptop. This gives agencies the flexibility to quickly connect to new coalition networks and tear down others.

Finally, cross-domain technology’s ability to bring data together across classification levels and mission partners is also crucial for enabling the use of artificial intelligence. Algorithms can’t make decisions based on data from a single source or classification level. Instead, data must be fused and brought together from multiple security levels to form data repositories. The more data AI has access to, the more effective it will be.

As Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks explained recently, “investments in AI can greatly improve the speed, quality and accuracy with which commanders make decisions, giving them a decisive advantage in deterring conflict and winning a fight.”

The bottom line is that the Indo-Pacific region is of extreme strategic importance to the U.S. and its 30+ partners. For CJADC2 to reach its full potential, the DoD must implement trusted cross-domain technology that allows for the seamless exchange of information not just between classification levels, but also partner environments. Doing so is the only way for the U.S. to connect the unconnectable and remain secure while operating in challenging territories like the Indo-Pacific.

George Kamis is Chief Technology Officer at Everfox

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