JADC2 needs to be Pentagon's 'big bet,' Flournoy says

Michèle Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy, said Joint All Domain Command and Control "needs to be one of the big bets that the Pentagon places" if it wants to be prepared for the future of warfare.

U.S. Air Force Airmen monitor computers in support of the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) Onramp 2, Sept 2, 2020 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Hernandez)

The Biden administration will have to make big bets on technology from autonomous systems to cyber if it wants to keep military edge in the coming decades, according to a former undersecretary of defense for policy.

Michèle Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy and co-founder and managing partner for WestExec Advisors, said the Pentagon's investment in Joint All Domain Command and Control, essentially a web of interconnected networks linking military services and partners together, will need to be a focus for the Biden administration in the next four years.

"The currently programmed force is not going to keep our edge over the next decade, and we will gradually lose our confidence in our ability to deter," due to over-investment in legacy systems and under-investment in the technologies and capabilities like artificial intelligence and unmanned systems, Flournoy said during The Hill's Defense Summit virtual event on March 29.

And as the environment becomes more contested and prone to disruption, the need for resilient and survivable systems increases.

"That means we have to build a resilient network of networks, which is really what Joint All Domain Command and Control is all about," Flournoy said. "That needs to be one of the big bets that the Pentagon places in the next four years if it's going to have what it needs to deter in the next 40."

Gen. James McConville, the Army chief of staff, concurred in a later panel discussion, saying, "We should assume that the technology we're using, our adversaries are going to try to impact that and take away the advantage we get by bringing the joint force together, by bringing the combined forces together. That is what is going on right now in all the services: how do we make sure we have very resilient connections between all of us."

The discussion comes as the Biden administration shapes its first budget and as members in Congress raise concerns about cybersecurity and vulnerabilities in the government and military systems.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said recently that modernization needs for DOD's command and control systems were central to defense spending and budget debates.

"If you have a 500-ship Navy and you're up against someone who has a five-ship Navy, but they're able to shut down your information systems so none of your 500 ships work, they win," said Smith during a virtual Brookings Institution event on March 5.

Smith said DOD's command and control information systems need to be durable, resilient and replaceable to avoid single points of failure.

"We have to be able to protect those systems and ideally we have to be able to build a system so that we can make our adversary systems more vulnerable. That really needs to be the focus," Smith said. "Let's just figure out what we need, buy it, and make it work."