Reaching Pentagon’s CJADC2 Goals to Require ‘Bridging Solutions’

By Stew Magnuson

Photo-illustration with iStock, Defense Dept. images

The Defense Department has a vision: take each service’s sensors and shooters, tie them all together in a seamless network that lives on a combat cloud and employ artificial intelligence to make decisions quicker than opponents can.

And the department must do it securely because — as retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, now dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, said — rivals such as China see interfering and disrupting the U.S. military’s kill chain as a path to victory.

The vision is known as Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or CJADC2, and despite the “joint” in the name, the Army, Navy and Air Force are pursuing their own programs.

“The lines of effort among each service have varying degrees of clarity and feasibility. It’s vital that we do this right the first time because we simply don’t have the luxury of time,” Deptula said while introducing a recent panel discussion on the topic.

As the calendar was poised to turn from 2023 to 2024, some of the military’s top officials involved in CJADC2 spelled out some of the pitfalls and goals the campaign was facing at the Association of Old Crows’ annual conference in National Harbor, Maryland.

One of 2023’s developments was the semi-official adding of the “C” for “combined” to the acronym as Pentagon policy acknowledges the U.S. military will be fighting alongside partners and allies.

“First it was ‘multi-domain,’ then it was ‘all-domain,” then it was ‘joint.’ And then most recently, we added ‘combined,’ and people look at us and they’re like, ‘What in the world are you talking about? How is this different than the way we did command and control in the past?’” said Navy Rear Adm. Susan BryerJoyner, deputy director, command, control, communications and computer/cyber systems, J-6, Joint Staff.

“I will tell you the difference is the volume of data, the speed of decision-making and operating in a contested environment against very persistent advanced adversaries. That’s all it is,” she said.

One of the pitfalls that will have to be worked out is doctrine, as information intended to be shared across the joint force was previously carried out at higher echelons.

“When we’re talking about a future fight when we don’t have time to go back and forth, we’re going to have to figure out how we push decision-making to the lowest level possible,” she said.

Adding allies and partners to the mix might add arrows to the CJADC2 quiver, but other militaries have different ways of doing things. That can be a plus or minus, she suggested.

“What we know is that our allies and partners bring different authorities to the table. They bring different capabilities to the table, and they bring different geographic positions to the table,” she said.

To get at the “combined” goal, the Defense Department has conducted globally integrated war games and exercises with allies and partners. “We are expanding the planning to make sure that we are as transparent as we can be given the sovereign classifications,” she said.

The department also formed an international joint requirements oversight committee to look at the potential tactics and procedures in a CJADC2 environment and to write requirements, which drive the development of capabilities, she said.

“Interoperability from the get-go is so incredibly important,” she said.

In the February through March timeframe, the Army will continue its CJADC2 development with Project Convergence — what it calls its “campaign of learning” — in two phases, said Col. Osvaldo Ortiz, deputy chief of staff, mission command support element, at Army Headquarters.

Phase one at the end of February and early March will take place at the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton on the California coast and will be focused on the Indo-Pacific region. It will involve practical exercises integrating land and seaborne elements with “a lot of fires,” he said.

Phase two, toward the end of March, will take place at Fort Irwin’s National Training Center in California and have a more European bent, he said.

This is considered a “capstone event” after the Army skipped Project Convergence exercises in 2023 and instead focused on a series of experiments — the “campaign of learning” part — that will culminate in the two phases of Project Convergence 2024, he noted.

The Army will “get ... after experimentation with set objectives and deliverables to create a holistic war­fighting network,” Ortiz added.

One complication is in electronic warfare, he said.

“If you learn anything from Ukraine, it is that we have to kill our signature. No pun intended. We have to do low signature equipment so that our warfighters can hide in plain sight,” he said.

One notable event during 2023 for the Army was the swearing in of the new Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George, who from the beginning of his tenure declared that the service’s “Unified Network” was now its number one modernization priority.

“We’re trying to close the gaps so we create a single network that will enable warfighting across all echelons — to joint and coalition,” he said.

The other services and some allies took part in past Project Converge experiments to help realize the “joint” and “combined” visions.

The Army wants to use Project Convergence to get in “multiple sets of reps” to improve its command-and-control system, which will ultimately allow it to bring together joint and coalition forces, he said.

The Navy continues its experiment with Project Overmatch, said Nick Freije, assistant chief engineer for mission architecture at Naval Information Warfare Systems Command.
When it does so, it tries to bring in the other services in “every chance we get, we’re trying to make sure that we bring in one of our partners,” he said.

The Navy’s CJADC2 efforts are looking at techniques and the tactics. “That’s what our Project Overmatch is: a lot of it is changing the way we’re actually designing, integrating, testing, training our warfighters to deliver better, faster decisions. So, it’s mainly about interoperability,” he said.

Freije said the Navy is also looking for capabilities that it can integrate earlier rather than later. It is looking to do quick experimentation and “spiral” CJADC2 technologies out into the fleet, he said.

“It’s about having the right applications; it is about having the right network infrastructure. It’s about having the right data separated. It’s also about having the right tools,” he said.

The Navy is focusing on software rather than hardware. It wants to be able to add capabilities with software upgrades.

“Let’s not bring a new box,” he said. Ideally, the service can run simulations on any new software capability to see if it can answer the question: “Can I actually close the kill chain faster?”

Dr. Michael Zatman of the Transformational Projects Office at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory — and an observer of the services’ CJADC2 programs — delivered a blunt assessment of their progress.

On the positive side, the Army has “a really well-planned pipeline that has been showing great success over the years,” he said.

“The Navy has also been quite successful over that timeframe. Project Overmatch has really succeeded in taking a bunch of capabilities, taking them out of [the Office of Naval Research] and other places, and just transitioning them quickly to the fleet, and that’s been something quite interesting and remarkable to watch,” he said.

The Air Force, which didn’t have a representative on the panel, had some early struggles with its version of CJADC2, the Advanced Battle Management System, but have turned things around in Zatman’s estimation thanks to better analyses of what it is trying to accomplish.

As for the remaining challenges, there are a few, Zatman said.

“Culture isn’t going to change overnight,” he said. “Getting the services to be more and more transparent is going to take a generation of investment in officers coming through the services and is a long-term endeavor.”

“We still have seen some good jointness such as the Navy and the Air Force working together in the air today. But that’s not joint and is a single domain, not all-domain,” he noted.

The panelists were asked if there is a finish line for CJADC2. Will there be a day when the “ribbon is cut, the button is pushed and voila, we have combined, joint all-domain command and control? And how far off is that day?”

“Interoperability is not a stable condition,” Zatman said. “It requires continual effort. And part of that continuing effort is experimentations,” he said.

And technology evolves too quickly for typical five-to-15-year military development cycles, he added.

Meanwhile, although the day when the Pentagon has reached CJADC2 nirvana may be years off, leaders might be looking at flipping the switch on some early capabilities, or what BryerJoyner called “bridging solutions.”

A bridging solution is something that’s “good enough today,” but may not be the final solution, she explained.

“We need something today to close the gaps and to smooth interoperability,” she said.

That is not the normal way the military does business and can be seen — particularly by lawmakers — as wasteful, she said.

Nevertheless, work is proceeding on analyzing what can be accomplished at an earlier stage to provide warfighters with some initial capabilities, she said.

“We’re drawing on all the different types of analysis in the department to figure out what’s good enough for a given time horizon,” she said. ND

Topics: Defense Department