President's Commentary: The Power to Command and Control

April 1, 2021
By Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.)

The U.S. military needs the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) capability to maintain battlespace superiority against peer and near-peer competitors in the future operating environment. In its simplest form, JADC2 is about speed and information from any sensor to any shooter through any C2 node. A host of factors from innovative new capabilities to culture change and funding will play a significant role in determining the success of this vital endeavor.

Peer adversaries are accelerating the development of new military capabilities across all domains and threaten the U.S. advantage in future conflicts. China, in particular, is expanding its military capabilities to include developments in space and anti-space assets, exquisite ISR capabilities, hypersonic weapons and an expanded aircraft carrier and naval shipbuilding program as well as enhanced cyber, electronic warfare, ballistic missile and information warfare capabilities. In the fight today and in the future, anyone can see their adversary, and there are no sanctuaries. “If you can see it, you can target it.” This calls for a new way of conducting military operations, leading to the need for an all-domain command and control capability (air, land, maritime, space and cyber). U.S. and allied forces must be able to operate faster and have access to key information to assist decision-making, targeting, and the delivery of desired effects.

Any sensor must be connected with any shooter when needed. Any target should be viewed as a joint target and potentially attacked from multiple domains. Consequently, data must be collected and aggregated from the different sensors and placed where any shooter or C2 facility can access it for weapon optimization or decision-making in “shooter time.” This leads to JADC2.

An underlying need for JADC2 is a supporting warfighting network that is secure, resilient, ubiquitous and capable. It must be able to operate within the technical and interoperability parameters needed to support low latency requirements—a joint network designed for the future fight. The network we have today will not fulfill the necessary attributes for JADC2 to be effective. The development of this network is the Achilles’ heel of JADC2 that must be addressed now.

Achieving this will require innovative and automated technologies and capabilities to an extent far greater than needed for previous C5ISR and weapons capabilities. Many of these capabilities will be developed or adapted from commercial technology and innovation. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are at the top of the list of required new technologies: without them, many of the basic aspects of JADC2 will be unattainable. With so much data being amassed and stored, there won’t be time for humans to assess its relevance for fleeting targets and informing and assisting commanders’ decisions.

Cloud computing is another key technology. The huge amount of sensor data will need a place to reside with access from both fixed and mobile capabilities. Individual shooters will need to be able to access the full range of information in near real time.  The cloud will provide a repository for the information serving as the basis for the decision-making process. Any and all warfighting domains will be able to tap and feed this repository for a range of uses. Access to the data and information from remote locations, as well as time constraints, distance and network availability, will be critical issues.

AI will help examine potential targets and determine the optimum weapon to be employed by weighing factors such as weapon availability, targeting information, priority, desired effects and collateral damage. Automated tools will provide speed and real-time assessment, and JADC2 will assist in the decision-making by looking at the full range of capabilities in near real time.

Achieving JADC2 will require a multifaceted approach. For example, each of the services is pursuing its own advances in programs designed for its respective needs. This work will contribute to JADC2 goals, but it will also need to be appropriately consolidated, coordinated and integrated into the effort, putting aside service parochialism.

The Joint Staff is issuing a strategy to develop the baseline on which the desired capabilities can ride. It includes plans for bringing together the developments from each of the services as they evolve, so joint interoperability can be achieved. It’s absolutely vital that the services are able to integrate into each other’s concepts and capabilities. This is a challenge not to be taken lightly.

A fully empowered JADC2 will allow commanders to select from a range of options across multiple domains that will present our adversaries with multiple dilemmas. They will then have to defend themselves at a tempo they can’t maintain, potentially forcing them to fight with uncertainty in all domains. This can lead to overmatch. And it will allow U.S. forces to negate enemy actions. JADC2 will create the environment that generates the overmatch that U.S. forces will need.

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General, you views are spot on from my perspective. I think your last paragraph is the ultimate point behind JADC2. Sometimes the "why" behind JADC2 gets lost in the discussion about the required technologies. The technology is meant to provide information dominance and decision superiority for commanders at all echelons. Command and commanders is the central verb and noun within JADC2 - an acronym that contains an abbreviation with words that have very specific meanings and nuances.

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