Services’ Fear of Losing ‘Control’ Blocking JADC2 Progress, Experts Say

 In air force, Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy

JADC2 Army image

WASHINGTON: Progress toward development of Joint All-Domain Command and Control will remain slow until the services relinquish control of some of their own systems, field operations and budgets, experts say

“What we really need is for the services to be willing to give up some of their control and do that in a more multi-domain way,” Eli Niewood, MITRE’s vice president for Intelligence Programs and Cross-Cutting Capabilities, told the Genius Machines event today sponsored by NextGov. “Until people really own up to that and face up to that, I don’t think we’ll make the progress that we need.”

For example, Niewood said, service components to the Combatant Commands continue to operate in their own stovepiped units, such as the Air Force’s Air Operations Centers (AOC). While AOCs often include one or two representatives from the Navy and/or Army, they are not really joint. Ditto, he said, for the Army’s battalion Tactical Operations Centers.

“When you talk about sort of the peer fight in some of the combatant commands,  it is not clear to me that the service components have really, you know, seen what they need to do to come together,” he elaborated. “I don’t think it’s so much a turf protection thing. Sometimes it is just the complexity of the fight is so great that they wouldn’t know how to operate and do command and control across all of the domains, across all of the services at once. I think they might be willing to; they just don’t have the tools to do that.”

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David Kumashiro, who recently served as the service’s director of Joint Force Integration, agreed that “institutional and resource” challenges are providing harder to overcome than technology challenges.

“I think there are a lot of institutional challenges that we have to get through,” said Kumashiro, who now is the director of research and analysis at the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. “This is really about the speed and the agility of all those other pieces of the operational concepts of the training of the organizations of the personnel, to be able to adapt to this new environment.”

This why the ongoing demonstrations under the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) effort and the Army’s Project Convergence are so important, Niewood and Kumashiro say. Showing that one problem can be tackled at a time in an iterative manner and involving warfighters as that process unfolds — as the ABMS program is doing — are helping people recognize that JADC2 is actually doable, the experts asserted.

“I think, really, the big challenge is that there’s an almost an aspect of paralysis … everyone thinks like you have to boil the ocean to actually get there,” Kumashiro said.

Other experts are less generous in how they view the obstacles to getting all the services to buy into a truly  unified approach to JADC2. This is just another “manifestation of BS service rivalry,” a former DoD official told me a few weeks ago.

As I reported yesterday, the Navy in particular is dragging its feet on JADC2 — despite agreeing with the Air Force last year to cooperate — in favor of focusing first on its own network. Further, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown and his Army counterpart, Gen. James McConville, found it necessary to sign a formal memorandum of understanding — and commit to a series of oversight meetings — to ensure that their subordinates actually work together.

Mark Gunzinger, director of future concepts at the Mitchell Institute, said that in the end, the differences between the attitudes of Army and Navy leaders shouldn’t be all that surprising.

“Frankly, the Army can’t afford to pay for all of the capabilities needed to support its future vision of a force capable of conducting very long-range strikes and other missions—and budget constraints are a powerful forcing function,” he told me in an email.

“I don’t see a similar forcing function for the Navy, which has a Secretary of Defense running point on its future fleet aspiration,” he added. “Plus, the Navy has been working on its own battle management and command and control system of systems (Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air), which includes Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) for years now. Their efforts are beginning to pay off. Plus, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Navy’s perspective is the JADC2/ABMS effort is still too undefined and could lead to new, unknown requirements that the Navy can’t afford right now.”

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Schneider, program manager at the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), suggested that one solution for developing systems to enable JADC2 might be to turn more heavily toward prototyping by DoD-wide entities like DIU to avoid service myopia — and the ‘not invented here’ syndrome.

“When you’re talking about trying to start off within a single service to take on something that’s going to be joint in nature, I think you’re going to have issues that just aren’t going to be, you know, germane to the organization you started with,” he said. “So one of the approaches to consider is [to] start off with a joint entity, whether it’s DIU or another joint entity, start off with the joint entity first, since they are working at a multi-service level and then move it along.”

Todd Harrison, budget and space expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told me in an email that a better solution would simply be for DoD leadership to put one service clearly in charge and order the others to follow.

“This is a fundamental roles and missions question, and DoD needs to clearly designate a lead service and compel the other services to follow that lead,” he said. “The Space Force may be the most natural fit to lead JADC2 because so much of the comms already runs through space or is enabled by space.”

Other experts suggested more cooperation on JADC2 may evolve once the overarching Joint Warfighting Concept, due to Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the end of the year, is fully thrashed out. As Sydney and I reported in July, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley asked the services to volunteer to take the lead on one of the four subcomponents of the concept. The Army signed up for contested logistics; the Air Force, JADC2; and the Navy, joint fires. And because it’s less defined and no service wanted the lead, the Joint Staff are scratching their collective heads over how the US military can establish “information advantage” in future high-tech wars.

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