Defense Department leaders stress need for JADC2 concept of operations

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The Pentagon needs to provide a clear concept of operations to guide its ongoing, high-profile effort to enable Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) across the military branches, current and former Defense Department officials said Monday.

Concepts of operations, also known as CONOPS, essentially lay out the features and expectations for how proposed capabilities will be used by warfighters.

“Just two weeks ago … we had all five service chiefs talking JADC2 for two hours,” Brig. Gen. John Olson, the Space Force’s chief data and AI officer, noted during a panel at a JADC2 conference hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association.

“We’ve identified some very key challenges — and, just with the technology, every bit as important and maybe even more so is the concept of operations — you’ve got to have the concept of operations,” he said.

He confirmed that the senior officials will prioritize this “fundamental” topic in the near term.

Taking shape over the last several years, the Pentagon’s vision for Joint All-Domain Command and Control is to better connect sensors, shooters and networks across all the military services and allow for better information-sharing between a wide variety of platforms, systems and components.

Contracts have and will continue to be awarded to companies who will help make this happen, and developments are occurring gradually.

“I would describe that today the rhetoric is very hot, and the rhetoric is outpacing the actual progress or activity as it relates to JADC2 — but there is movement,” Sean Stackley, L3Harris president for integrated mission systems, said during a panel at the conference.

Stackley previously served as acting secretary of the Navy and the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, among other roles.

Now operating “from the outside looking in,” Stackley said it looks like the various military services and departments are approaching the overarching initiative quite differently.

“The Army is pressing forward with experimentation,” while the Air Force “seems to be focused on things like architecture and standards and getting that right, upfront,” he said. Meanwhile the Navy is honing in on the battlefield deployment cycle. 

“So there’s three different approaches, which what that raises is — where’s the ‘joint’ part of JADC2?” he said. “What are the CONOPs that can allow the department and industry to focus, target, build and deliver, and test and deliver [capabilities] all moving in the right direction in terms of JADC2? And I don’t think that CONOPs has been formed yet, which is why the service departments are approaching the problem somewhat differently.”

In addition to sorting out a concept of operations, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Douglas Bush said the JADC2 initiative could also benefit from the Pentagon establishing a “joint organizing body” to ensure more seamless integration and interoperability as the effort evolves.