• Paratroopers secure their location in preparation for the extraction of senior Afghan and coalition military leaders following a key leader engagement in southeastern Afghanistan, December 29, 2019. Complex policies for connecting networks and sharing data remains a significant barrier for working with allies and coalition partners, military officials say. Credit: Army Master Sgt. Alejandro Licea
     Paratroopers secure their location in preparation for the extraction of senior Afghan and coalition military leaders following a key leader engagement in southeastern Afghanistan, December 29, 2019. Complex policies for connecting networks and sharing data remains a significant barrier for working with allies and coalition partners, military officials say. Credit: Army Master Sgt. Alejandro Licea

Policy Remains Biggest Hurdle for Interoperability

March 2, 2021
By George I. Seffers
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Joint and coalition warfighting depend on updated policies.


With a new Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) strategy document wending its way through the Pentagon, multiple high-ranking officers indicate that complex networks and related policies related remain the top impediment to working with allies and partner nations.

The strategy is being spearheaded by Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, the director of command, control, communications, computers/cyber, and the chief information officer for the Joint Staff, J-6. According to Brig. Gen. Robert Parker, USA, J-6 deputy director for the Joint Staff, the document has been sent to the chief of staff and vice chief of staff for approval and could land on the desk of the secretary of defense in the coming days or weeks.

Gen. Parker made the comments while moderating a panel at the AFCEA TechNet Indo-Pacific conference. The conference panel focused on the intersection of JADC2 and the Mission Partner Environment. The general asked the panel about the major challenge to establishing a Mission Partner Environment, and the top answer was policies related to networking and information sharing.  

Col. James “Jim” Turinetti IV, USA, director, Communications Systems Directorate, U.S. Southern Command, for example, explained that the process for gaining approval to share encrypted information can take a year or two. “Technically, we could solve it now. Equipment-wise we could solve it now,” he said, adding “As we talk work through the technology side … that doesn’t necessarily fix policy.”

Col. Turinetti noted that a mission partner working group will use the Bold Quest exercise to work through some of the policy issues.

Brig. Gen. Jeth Rey, USA, director, command, control, communication and computer systems, U.S. Central Command, indicated that he agrees 100 percent regarding policy. “It truly comes down to adopting a policy and standards that really start at the releasable level. You have to have that vision of releasable,” Gen. Rey stated. “Unlike the current policies that build up from the U.S.-only core of our networks, we really need to think about that releasable first.”

He also suggested that processes that do not support coalition building should be eliminated. “I think that if we recognize any process that is not simple, repeatable and doesn’t support coalition building at the speed of relevance, it needs to be scrapped and then replaced by something that is,” Gen. Rey declared. “If we don’t do that, I’m telling you, we’re going to just be stuck.”

Gen. Rey acknowledged that simplifying policies is not an easy task. “This is hard stuff, and it’s going to take all of us collectively to get across the finish line.”

He pointed out that Russia and China both compete with the United States in the Central Command area of responsibility. “Our competitors are cheap. We will win with our partners if we’re good and fast. We will lose if we’re not,” he said. “If we don’t get the policies to get ahead of the technologies, we won’t be able to implement them, and therefore, we won’t be able to bring things like JADC2 on board as quickly as we need to.”

Brig. Gen. Jacqueline "Denise" Brown, USA, director, J-6, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, also agreed. “Policy is a significant concern. As we go through and we do the different experiments, we do the different tabletop experiments, what’s important is that we identify what that policy is that’s going to impede us from being able to accomplish that,” she said.

She specifically agreed that policies regarding releasability is the place to start. “Releasable has to be one of the core tenets that we’re looking at where we’re not trying to make it releasable after the fact,” she said. “If we build a network, if we build these systems but they’re not releasable to our mission partners, we’re going to lose. Like Gen. Rey said, people will go with cheap all day long. We have to be able to make sure it’s trusted and can be delivered fast.”

Gen. Brown also suggested the risk management framework needs updating. “When we look at the [risk management framework] that we use to accredit our networks and our systems, that requires a significant amount of reform. We have worked with partner nations recently, working with some of their indigenous systems to connect with the U.S. networks, and I tell you what, that is a challenge.”

That complexity could deter other nations from partnering with the United States, she warned. Our method’s a challenge for us in the U.S., but you apply it over another nation’s system and the level of complexity has just gone up tenfold. That’s not encouraging for an ally or a partner who wants to connect their system to ours when it takes them a significant amount of time, maybe up to 18 months, to complete this process.”

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