Instantaneous interconnectivity: Inside the Department of Defense’s ambitious plan for JADC2
What is Joint All-Domain Command and Control?
Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) is an evolving Department of Defense (DOD) vision to revamp the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) programs currently in use across all U.S. military branches. The infrastructures in place at, for example, the U.S. Army, are largely unable to function at a seamless level with the networks of other branches, such as the U.S. Space Force. Additionally, these infrastructures do not meet the DOD’s requirements to handle rapidly evolving and highly complex new-age battlefield situations that require urgent, coordinated responses from U.S. armed forces.
JADC2 is an effort to rectify these dilemmas by creating a cloudlike environment that enables the rapid receipt and transmission of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data to interconnected networks. By developing a unified network that enables sensors on Internet of Military Things (IoMT) devices to instantly pass on mission-critical information to leaders, more informed and coordinated decision making is possible across the U.S. military’s branches. Decision makers can act faster and establish more cohesive battlefield tactics, factoring in land, sea and air threats with additional support from each other’s assets due to this common operating picture (COP) being immediately relayed to the relevant parties via machine learning (ML) and AI support.
Vendors covered in TBR’s series of Public Sector and Mission Systems reports have been increasingly involved in JADC2. It provides a sizable opportunity for vendors with these areas of expertise.
What will be needed to enable JADC2?
In March, the Pentagon published its official JADC2 strategy, which included five “lines of effort” that the JADC2 Cross-Functional Team (CFT) will work on to bring the DOD’s vision closer to reality. The first goal is to set up a uniform “data enterprise,” which includes creating guidelines for baseline metadata tagging. Next, the JADC2 CFT will leverage digital tools like AI to support decision makers and engage in efforts to advance integral technology. The Space Development Agency (SDA) will then establish a network that enables communication across branches and weave nuclear command, control and communication (N3) systems into the overarching JADC2 program. Lastly, the DOD will strive to better connect mission partners by streamlining the exchange of data.
This lofty goal of rapidly parsing relevant data from battlefield situations and enabling decision makers to be more agile will require a lot of support. For example, DevSecOps will build out customizable capabilities for JADC2 based on a department’s needs. The electromagnetic battle management system (EMBM), a core piece of the DOD’s vision, will be underpinned by DevSecOps using electromagnetics that will aid branches of the U.S. military, such as the U.S. Air Force, with tasks like identifying and connecting data. Advancing AI technology will also be critical to JADC2’s success and require contractors to increasingly expand their capabilities.
For example, Booz Allen Hamilton (NYSE: BAH) has been positioning itself to capitalize on AI and analytics demand since 2018 with a series of inorganic and organic investments. TBR anticipates Booz Allen Hamilton will play a key role in helping to produce new tactical support systems leveraging AI and familiarize warfighters with newer technologies like directed energy weapons. Additionally, Peraton Labs has been building out its Operational Spectrum Comprehension, Analytics and Response (OSCAR) solution, which will bolster the DOD’s efforts to bring interoperability across the nation’s military branches by leveraging AI as well as 5G technologies.
JADC2 will also require an anti-fragile cloud environment underpinned by 5G technology, which is where military contractors like Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) and Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) have been looking to capitalize. In November 2021 Lockheed Martin formed an alliance with Verizon (NYSE: VZ) to enable interoperability among legacy networks and devices already in use as part of the contractor’s efforts to provide 5G connectivity through its 5G.MIL unified infrastructure. Lockheed Martin has since expanded its partner network to include Keysight Technologies (Nasdaq: KEYS), Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) and Omnispace to assist with 5G.MIL, streamlining network communications for both IP and non-IP users.
Meanwhile Northrop Grumman formed an alliance with AT&T (NYSE: T) in April to analyze digital battle networks and integrate Northrop Grumman’s systems with 5G commercial capabilities and AT&T’s 5G private networks to establish a scalable open architecture for the DOD. To do this at the scale the DOD wants, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman will need to build out their partner networks among startups and fringe players while continuing to build out relationships with major names like Verizon and Microsoft.
The military/DOD will increasingly require IT assistance to underpin the JADC2 initiative. While the military’s outsourcing efforts will certainly play a part in bringing JADC2 closer to fruition, the branches are expected to bring on more IT workers of their own and invest in systems integration as well as methods to educate these employees and retain them to help build, maintain and troubleshoot applications.
Currently, the military branches are working on their own programs compatible with the DOD’s JADC2 vision. For example, the U.S. Air Force is developing its Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), which has undergone periodic testing in public since December 2019. Recent efforts indicate the U.S. Air Force is trying to fit KC-46 Pegasus tanker aircraft with pods linking F-22 aircraft and other solutions on the ABMS network, which would allow more information to be exchanged. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy has been working on Project Overwatch while the U.S. Army has been expanding Project Convergence to include additional features that will contribute to its success. For example, the Army’s FIRESTORM system leverages AI that scans relevant points with sensors, maps out a digital battleground, tags hostiles and selects the optimal weapon for the circumstances.
What are the fears surrounding JADC2?
While JADC2 has a lot of potential, there are several concerns with the DOD’s vision, beyond just getting these systems to communicate through one language.
Fears about JADC2’s adaptability and resiliency are prevalent, particularly because China and other countries have invested in disruptive technologies like an anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) conflict deterrence system that could impede JADC2 and other communication networks’ functions. There has been very little discussion about how JADC2 would combat these disruptions or function in these contested environments outside of test settings when facing the brunt of foreign adversaries’ disruptive technologies. The DOD will need to ensure it can generate as much relevant information as possible from a limited number of sensors while maintaining undetectable networks capable of surviving enemies’ efforts to degrade or disrupt the relaying of information.
Accenture (NYSE: ACN) Federal Services Managing Director Bill Marion also emphasized that human-centered design will be necessary throughout JADC2’s framework to ensure that warfighters and decision makers can easily navigate these interconnected networks and learn about all of their capabilities to maximize their use.
Targeted internal investments are necessary to implement JADC2. Companies like Raytheon Intelligence & Space of Raytheon Technologies (NYSE: RTX) will need to develop and connect new IT infrastructure and update legacy systems to ensure they are compatible with JADC2 utilizing a cost-effective approach. Simultaneously, affordable and functioning multilevel cybersecurity solutions that can support the DOD’s desired instantaneous relaying of data and commands will be needed. Currently, there are concerns about enemies being able to hack into the MIL-STD-1553 serial data busses found in IoMT weapon systems. External parties might be able to breach the 1553 data bus and either shut down or actively use these connected armaments on U.S. personnel.
Contractors will need to find ways to protect the 1553 data bus from these threats, and Peraton Labs is already collaborating with military branches to establish Bus Defender capabilities. With the DOD looking to interconnect IT systems across all military branches, TBR anticipates that General Dynamics (NASDAQ: GD) Technologies is aiming to be the DOD’s preferred IT vendor by utilizing Agile methods to expedite the construction of tailored prototypes after first consulting with clients and showcasing the contractor’s base zero-trust solutions.
Ultimately, the journey to JADC2’s implementation will be long and complex. The DOD’s ambitious project will certainly face an ever-shifting road to implementation as there is no true endpoint for the project. Key components like hardware will need to be updated, policies will be amended, and the scope of JADC2 will grow, especially as the U.S. eyes getting allies involved with JADC2 in the future to establish a more unified cloudlike environment capable of streamlining the transference of data to all nations. If all goes well, the U.S. will be able to truly integrate its military branches, allowing them to overwhelm adversaries by using mission-critical data to make better, more informed and coordinated tactical decisions. The U.S. will aim to control the next-generation battlefield by gaining the upper hand on intelligence and rapid communication.