Defense Secretary Approves JADC2 Strategy

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, left, listens as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, right, speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Thursday, May 6, 2021.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, left, listens as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, right, speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Susan Walsh/AP

“Now it's delivery time,” Joint Staff J6 Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall said of the department’s plan for a data-centric warfighting network.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the strategy document for the Defense Department’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept last month, paving the way to implement technology that shares data between the services to improve the quality and speed of tactical decision-making. 

Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, the Joint Staff J6 and chief information officer, announced the secretary’s approval Friday in a press briefing. The JADC2 concept aims to connect everything on the battlefield into a global, warfighting communications network that will depend on emerging capabilities such as artificial intelligence and 5G. 

“So in the simplest terms, what the JADC2 strategy does is it does bring order to our efforts in the command and control arena to sense, make sense, and act all at the speed of relevance,” Crall said. 

While the unclassified version of the JADC2 strategy is not yet ready for release, Crall emphasized the strategy designates clear lines of effort that will help unify projects already underway within the services to build out and test capabilities. 

Key to the success of JADC2 is a push for data-centricity, Crall said, which he described as a balancing act between the need to secure that information and the need to share it at speed. Crall also highlighted several initial priorities: standards setting for data, software development, network enhancements, and moving to zero trust cybersecurity architecture

Crall also said identity, credentials and access management is a primary issue. The department needs ICAM solutions in order to set up cloud-based environments where the right data goes to the correct, authenticated user at the appropriate time. 

And on the cloud note, Crall indicated failure to establish the kind of cloud capability meant to be provided by the embattled Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure project won’t hurt the JADC2 project—yet.

“Where we are right now in the experimentation phase, I think that we have adequate resources to get after picking and choosing what works, but without an enterprise cloud solution, clearly that would inhibit us in the future,” Crall said in response to reporter questions around whether JADC2 implementation depends on JEDI. “But we have the means necessary today to do that level of experimentation, but it's probably easy to figure, you know, how long would it take us before we exceed our capabilities.”

In the meantime, the JADC2 cross-functional team will begin funneling together various efforts across the services—such as the Army’s Project Convergence, the Navy’s Project Overmatch, and the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System—by formalizing recommendations via the Joint Requirements Oversight Council. Once investment strategies are determined, requirements can then be elevated to the deputy defense secretary, who will in turn balance those requirements across the department for implementation, Crall explained. 

While the recently rolled out Defense budget request doesn’t summarize investments into JADC2, the service-level projects appear headed for boost under President Joe Biden’s desired plan. The budget would fund ABMS with $204 million, or $46 million more than was enacted in 2021, and Project Convergence would receive $106.8 million, according to the Army’s request. When asked, Crall said he believes the department is “adequately resourced to get done with the experimentation phase,” but that using resources smartly will be important moving forward. 

Regardless, the time for JADC2 implementation is now, Crall said. 

“It's now implementation time,” Crall said. “Planning is good. Talk is good. Now it's delivery time. And we've been given the clear signal to begin pushing these outcomes to the people who need them.”