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OSD & Joint Staff Grapple With Joint All-Domain Command « Breaking Defense

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MILCOM 2019: The Joint Staff and top Pentagon officials are taking charge of the armed services’ largely uncoordinated efforts to ensure truly joint operations in a future war.

The Joint Staff is leading a Joint Cross-Functional Team to thrash out the rapidly evolving concept called Joint All-Domain Command & Control. The team includes representatives from the offices of DoD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy, Undersecretary for Research & Engineering Mike Griffin, and Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment Ellen Lord,

Outline of lessons learned from the Air Force’s first Doolittle MDC2 wargame

JADC2, to use the inevitable acronym, is the term of art now agreed among the service chiefs for the relatively simple idea of linking all US military sensors to all shooters  — from all services, in all domains — to rapidly target enemy forces on the battlefield.

The Air Force has until recently called the concept Multi-Domain Command & Control (MDC2). The Army — starting when Gen. Mark Milley was Chief of Staff — first spoke about Multi-Domain Battle, then Multi-Domain Operations (MDO), but swiftly embraced much of the Air Force conceptual framework, including MDC2. On the other hand, the Navy has been somewhat aloof from the debate until recently, but now has jumped into the wider conversation.

All the services agree that confronting high-tech adversaries like China and Russia requires a new kind of coordinated combat across all five domains of warfare: land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace. Just how you do that — the AI and network technology, military protocols, and organizations required to execute such seamless command-and-control — is the big unanswered question.

“When we all talk about the mission, we’re seldom disagreeing,” Rear Adm. Bill Chase told the AFCEA Military Communications conference in Norfolk. But, he added with a laugh, “It’s when we start talking about who’s in charge that we start arguing, like siblings.”

As deputy director of the Joint Staff’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, & Cyber section (aka J-6), Chase plays a leading role in figuring out what JADC2 actually means.

Navy photo

Rear Adm. William Chase

“It’s is still in its infancy,” Chase said. “It’s nascent right now. We are storming and norming; trying to get an understanding what all the services have, and who’s made progress in which area.”

The goal, however, is to figure out how to move from the conceptual arena to developing policies, joint doctrine, joint requirements, an overarching research and development strategy, and a coherent acquisition strategy to implement a JADC2 system that actually works for the joint warfighters in the combatant commands.

In essence, Chase told Breaking Defense, the Joint Staff team’s first order of business is working to corral the services’ separate JADC2 efforts and make sure they are all more or less going in the same direction. Then the team will focus on how to make JADC2 real, recognizing that in the end the result will likely be an “80 percent solution” because each service will continue to have unique needs.

Part of the current problem is that the different services have different ideas about the what needs to be done to enable JADC2.

After the panel, Maj. Gen. Todd Isaacson — who works for the Army’s CIO/G-6 staff — told Breaking D that right now the services are “moving down parallel paths,” But, he went on, “we’re all looking for the on-ramps” to get onto the same path.

“The services need direction from the Chairman and the Joint Staff,” said Ken Gill, a retired Marine Corps colonel now serving as a G-6 Informations Systems Officer at Marine Corps Installation Command. “Without direction, we’re going to get better at Multi-Domain Operations, but it’s going to be on the fringes and it’s going to be slow.”

Army graphic

An Army slide trying to explain the Multi-Domain Battle concept, later renamed Multi-Domain Operations.

Gill said that developing the technology is “the easy part.” The hard part will be establishing the authorities: that is, who gets to approve what actions are taken at what level for what end?

For example, said Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, one such question of battlefield authority is, who gets priority to task imaging satellites to a target? (The Army has long felt that its battlefield priorities get short shrift from the Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office when it comes to space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, not to mention close air support).

Even on today’s panels, there were differences of emphasis. Air Force Brig. Gen. Kumo Kumashiro, who leads the Multi-Domain Command and Control (MDC2) Cross-Functional Team for the Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability (AFWIC) office, worried aloud that it might be premature to lock down the concept before we know what technology will actually let commanders do.

Kumashiro said he was “nervous” about imposing “hard direction and guidance” at this early stage. The key, he said, is rapidly developing capabilities — primarily software — to do pieces of the JADC2 mission, rather than fall back on the traditional, slow-moving acquisition system that tries to define the ideal system in the abstract and then deliver it as a single massive program.

Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. photo

Brig. Gen. David Kumashiro

The Air Force is starting a series of small-scale, rapid-fire field experiments this December, with sequel tests every four months. The idea is to develop new bits and pieces of promising command and control technology that can fit together in an overarching Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS).The Air Force has invited the other services to jump on board ABMS as the foundation of a joint architecture for JADC2.

Interestingly, the Air Force now has a seal of approval from Joint Chiefs of Staff for moving forward with this technology-first approach. Kumashiro told Breaking D that late this summer the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) gave the service the lead to run joint JADC2-related tech testing within its Shadow Operations Center at Nellis Air Foce Base in Nevada.

That does not mean, however, that the Air Force’s technologies have been anointed as the systems all the other services must use or get left behind. Indeed, Kumashiro was quick to emphasize that the Air Force is not trying to force anyone’s hand. “It’s not a singular solution,” he said.

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