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By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

Can fighter jets, drones, Navy-ships and ground-based weapons systems all receive, see and collaborate upon fast-incoming threat information and sensor-derived targeting all in real-time such as seconds or even milliseconds? The answer is yes. This reality, a long sought-after Pentagon ambition, is now breaking through to operational status.

Joint All Domain Command and Control Implementation Plan (JADC2)

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks has now signed a breakthrough Joint All Domain Command and Control Implementation Plan, a text which specifies a series of steps necessary to bring joint, multi-domain warfare attack and connectivity to paradigm-changing levels of high-speed functionality.

The respective military service elements or contributions to this joint effort are just as vital as the joint operational picture they help bring to fruition.

“This isn't a single service, it's not just one program office, it's the entire DOD. So the -- the vastness of this. We also have DOD efforts underway, as -- as I'm sure most of you know -- Project Overmatch, Project Convergence, ABMS (Advanced Battle Management System),” Lieutenant General Dennis Crall, Director, Command, Control, Communications And Computers/Cyber; Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff, told reporters in a JADC2 briefing, according to a Pentagon transcript.

The Pentagon’s Implementation Plan specifically calls for each of these respective service efforts to integrate and complement one another.

The Defense Department's efforts to bring Joint All Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, to the warfighter, will provide a better way to sense, make sense of and act on the volumes of information generated into today's joint, all-domain warfighting environment.

The Defense Department's efforts to bring Joint All Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, to the warfighter, will provide a better way to sense, make sense of and act on the volumes of information generated into today's joint, all-domain warfighting environment.

“Department development and implementation processes must be unified to deliver more effective cross-domain capability options,” the plan states.

As the Pentagon now builds upon years of progress to accelerate its Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) program through its new Implementation Plan, each of the contributing US military services are drawing upon years of developmental effort. The Army, Navy and Air Force have been pursuing joint, multi-domain connectivity for nearly decades, both as individual services and a joint force.

"This step represents irreversible momentum toward implementing the JADC2 Strategy and concepts the Department announced earlier this year," said Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Warrior in a written statement. "This is about dramatically increasing the speed of information sharing and decision making in a contested environment to ensure we can quickly bring to bear all our capabilities to address specific threats." 

The goal of the effort is something which could be described as a paradox, as it is both complex and extremely simple at the same time. It is about “speed,” enabled by information dominance, networking, high-speed data processing, common standards, AI-enabled computing and high-speed targeting to attack.

“If the clock wasn't on us, this might be a different -- a different pursuit, meaning you could take your time, you could make a lot of mistakes, you'll eventually get to the answer. And if it didn't matter when you got to the answer, then I guess that process would be good enough but a -- an answer good enough or a perfect answer delivered too late isn't good enough, and that's really our dilemma,” Crall said.

The Pentagon not only wants to achieve paradigm-changing levels of “speed” in warfare, but also wants to use developmental “speed” to get there as well.

“Department development and implementation processes must execute at faster speeds…..Information Sharing capability improvements are designed and scaled at the enterprise level,” the Implementation Plan states.

The Department of Defense is now beginning to achieve long sought after networking, connectivity and cross-domain warfare goals envisioned and pursued for decades.

Fortified by measured progress from each of the individual services, air-ground-sea-cyberspace are approaching paradigm-changing levels of information sharing and information processing, massively increasing the speed of warfare and truncating the crucial sensor-to-shooter time curve essential to survival and victory in war.

The Defense Department's efforts to bring Joint All Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, to the warfighter, will provide a better way to sense, make sense of and act on the volumes of information generated into today's joint, all-domain warfighting environment.

The Defense Department's efforts to bring Joint All Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, to the warfighter, will provide a better way to sense, make sense of and act on the volumes of information generated into today's joint, all-domain warfighting environment.

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks recently signed the Joint All Domain Command and Control Implementation Plan, a roadmap with specific Lines of Effort intended to leverage breakthrough progress within and between the military services.

The concept is both straightforward and very difficult to achieve, as it pertains to linking sensor data and processing time-sensitive information between otherwise disaggregated platforms operating with different protocols and transport layers to enable methods of communication.

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Lieutenant General Dennis Crall, Director, Command, Control, Communications And Computers/Cyber; Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff, described JADC2 as operating within the conceptual framework of retired Air Force Col. John Boyd’s famous OODA loop.

Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action (OODA Loop)

Identified as Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action (OODA), the loop refers to the significance and speed of crucial time-sensitive war-engagement decision making.

“So we've talked about, you know, in a lot of our war colleges, this idea of Boyd's OODA Loop, being able to operate in a decision cycle faster than your adversary. What you described in that multi-domain, multi-battle -- the power of information has never been stronger, the machine-human interface, the need has never been greater, and JADC2 is attempting to leverage that so that we can deliver that -- the best decision to the warfighter in the fastest time. Crall told reporters in a briefing on JADC2, according to a Pentagon transcript.

The three guiding concepts woven into the Implementation Plan align closely with Boyd’s OODA loop concept, yet advance the idea in strategic, tactical and technological respects. The Implementation Plan identifies the three guiding C2 (Command and Control) functions of ‘sense,’ ‘make sense,’ and ‘act.’”

Building upon this, the text of the Implementation Plan outlines five Lines of Effort fundamental to bringing JADC2 to a fully operational level. According to the document they are “Establish the JADC2 Data Enterprise, Establish the JADC2 Human Enterprise, Establish the JADC2 Technical Enterprise, integrate Nuclear C2 and Communications with JADC2 and Modernize Mission Partner Information Sharing.”

Each of these LOEs, as they are called, is supported with implementation guidance in the document, which calls for the continued establishment and modernization of new interfaces and common technical IP protocol standards, radio waveform integration and stronger satellite connectivity with air, sea and ground platforms and “nodes.”

Speed of information flow, described not long ago by Air Force Europe Commander Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian as fighting at the “speed of relevance,” getting ahead of an enemy's decision cycle with integrated, high-speed targeting and attack.

The services each give the effort a different name, yet fundamentally seek to accomplish a common goal…speed of connectivity across the force. The Navy’s Project Overmatch, the Army’s Integrated Battle Command System and the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System.

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, Joint Staff Chief Information Officer and Director for Command, Control and Computer/Cyber, gives opening remarks to press members during a briefing on the Joint All-Domain Command and Control implementation plan, at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., March 18, 2022.

“This isn't a single service, it's not just one program office, it's the entire DOD. So the -- the vastness of this. We also have DOD efforts underway, as -- as I'm sure most of you know -- Project Overmatch, Project Convergence, ABMS(Advanced Battle Management System),” Lieutenant General Dennis Crall, Director, Command, Control, Communications And Computers/Cyber; Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff, told reporters in a JADC2 briefing, according to a Pentagon transcript.

The Navy not only seeks to connect with the other services but is also enabling its own service wide multi-domain connectivity with its submarines, surface ships and fixed wing aircrafts.

Therefore, the Navy itself need to connect air-sea-undersea domains itself, while then also extending connectivity to Army units on the ground and Air Force units above.

The Navy’s contribution to JADC2 has for years been making rapid progress with what’s called Project Overmatch, an AI-enabled system of multi-domain, multi-platform integration aligning surface, undersea and air assets to operate in close coordination with one another. This means information sharing between overhead drones, ship-launched fighter jets, surface ships, a fast-growing fleet of autonomous and semi-autonomous unmanned platforms and even submarines to a certain extent.

The idea is to engineer and execute multi-domain data sharing, which could for instance immediately link mine countermeasures with surface and undersea platforms in support of an air-surface amphibious assault.

Drones in the air and 5th-Generation aircraft could find threats from beyond the horizon, minefields could be found and neutralized ahead of incoming surface attacks and unmanned systems could survey enemy coastline to test defenses … all simultaneously in real time.

The intended cumulative battlefield effect is made manifest through sensors
“The speed of -- first of all, the volume of information is only growing exponentially. And we have the ability -- with the sensors…. the unblinking, all-seeing eye is everywhere. So we're awash in sensor data,” Crall said.

That is the idea, and the Navy has been making progress with this for many years now, in part through a project called Ghost Fleet or Operation Overlord which began years ago with the Office of Naval Research.

Progress with the effort has led to its migration to the service as a program, which has already demonstrated an ability for multiple unmanned systems to operate autonomously and semi-autonomously in close coordination with one another. The concept is to not only optimize point to point connectivity and command and control but a “networked” system of multiple “meshed” nodes operating in relation to one another, often without requiring human intervention.

These kinds of breakthroughs are exactly what are being harnessed with Project Overmatch, the foundation of the Navy’s contribution to JADC2.

Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization