Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) is a visionary approach to linking the armed forces’ sensors and shooters into a single network to facilitate decision making. Think of it as a vast, military internet-of-things—connecting sensors, weapon systems, data centers, and users to make data more accessible and interoperable.
This initiative aims to revolutionize data access across the services—to provide information when and where warfighters and decision makers need it most, regardless of its originating source or platform.
Achieving the technical objectives will take years. Yet there are cultural and policy barriers that can be addressed now—related to data governance, sharing data across services, and proprietary data approaches.
Challenge #1: Transforming Data Governance
People often talk in terms of “data owners,” traditionally thinking of these roles as those who functionally generate, supply, or maintain the data. But take a step back from this paradigm and you begin to see its limitations—especially in terms of large organizations like the Department of Defense (DOD), where analyzing data in silos is inefficient and isolates valuable data from users at the edge. Increasingly, battlefield superiority relies on a joint approach—a tenet of JADC2.
When seen from this perspective, the concept of a data owner being in a functional organization limits the military’s ability to realize the goals of JADC2. There are places where data ownership may need to be rigid and structural at the organization level due to security concerns, but using the DOD’s data in the ways JADC2 envisions calls for an enterprise-level methodology—a common reference architecture defined by a modular, open-systems approach. The concept of data ownership must be reoriented to one of data stewardship, with commands and suborganizations informed of how, when, and where to protect individual data assets. This allows organizations within the DOD to take a more collaborative approach to owning, sharing, and protecting data.
Challenge #2: Sharing Data Across Services
Even at the lowest levels of data sharing, it is easy to understand some reluctance to merge data streams and break down barriers to sharing information, especially within the DOD. Current data sharing and security paradigms exist because protecting sensitive and classified information is not just important—it’s a matter of national security.
At a more strategic level, joint initiatives like JADC2 are not easily accomplished. Despite the longtime attempt to emphasize jointness through structural changes, such as the creation of Combatant Commands and processes such as the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS), services still frequently set requirements and acquire independently. Even joint requirements setting doesn’t ensure interoperability or, crucially, common data access. Because of this, working across services inherently increases any program’s technical and organizational complexity.
It’s important to keep in mind that the purpose of JADC2 is not to take resources from the services—it seeks to create one ecosystem that makes those resources accessible across the DOD. To achieve this, the services must collaborate to implement changes for critical elements such as command and control, information advantage, and logistics.
As organizations connect their data to make it findable, redundancies will become apparent. These must be impartially evaluated so DOD can make tradeoffs to lower the total cost of ownership and streamline operations for the entire ecosystem. One governing entity is likewise needed to standardize processes for the new integrated structure.
A unified approach to JADC2 is therefore required. DOD leadership and the Joint Staff should establish enterprise-level management for all JADC2 implementations, addressing the complex functional and technical aspects needed to make interservice collaboration a reality.
Challenge #3: Adopting Open Architectures
Implementing JADC2 will require data platforms built on modular open architectures, which original equipment manufacturers (OEM) have long regarded as a threat to their bottom line. For decades, large-platform OEMs have protected their systems in nearly every way possible—with proprietary software, application programming interfaces, and hardware interfaces. This means that when it is time for an upgrade, the government is “locked in” to that particular OEM’s services.
In contrast, open architectures operate on the principle that non-proprietary interfaces improve a system’s modularity, upgradeability, and enterprise collaboration. Open application programming interfaces (API) play a key role, providing plug-and-play flexibility—a first for DOD.
To hasten the shift to the new paradigm, DOD can work with a diverse base of contractors, from OEMs willing to open their data and maximize interoperability to innovative companies with an “open first” mindset. For example, our technologists create open APIs allowing the government to own defense innovation, work with partners like Amazon Web Services to provide interoperable frameworks, provide tech scouting services, and incubate open-architecture solutions in our engineering labs.
Accelerating JADC2 with New Partnerships
To make the most of its JADC2 investments, DOD must consider how to incentivize services to work together; promote modular, open-architecture approaches; and advocate for more collaborative approaches to data governance. This will require a commitment to a partnership mindset—across services and with innovators across the industrial base.
For example, we’re partnering with DOD and industry to further the digital battlespace, a vision to help realize JADC2 and further the connected force of the future. The challenges are formidable, but the benefits will be worthwhile—JADC2 will help move valuable data to where it’s needed most, protecting U.S. citizens and warfighters alike.