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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

For JADC2 To Work, DoD Needs An Enterprise-Wide Cloud Immediately

Image: Creative Commons.

The key to a new American way of war is not a platform or a weapons system. It is a network: the Joint All-Domain Command and Control system (JADC2). This is intended to be a single enterprise-wide network utilizing advanced cloud capabilities to enable seamless sensor-to-shooter integration. JADC2 would be designed to support a new data-centric approach to operating U.S. forces. To be effective, JADC2 will need an enterprise-wide cloud capability that seamlessly moves data from the highest headquarters in the continental United States (CONUS) to the tactical edge.

The Department of Defense (DoD) hoped to establish such a cloud-based on commercial technologies with its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program. This effort failed for a variety of reasons. The Pentagon now wants a “federated” cloud system involving multiple cloud providers and contracts, but that will take time. If JADC2 is going to be successful, the Pentagon needs to get a department-spanning cloud capability into the mix now and evolve from there. Only one cloud contract, milCloud 2.0, offers that capability now.

The new American way of war constitutes a shift from an industrial-age approach to warfare, which emphasized mass and attrition, to a twenty-first-century one based on exploiting information and fighting smarter. There will be a new focus on the concentration of effects, dispersal of forces, integration across services and domains, real-time engagements, and decision superiority.

JADC2 will be a key enabler for the new American way of war. JADC2 is intended to enhance the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of decision-making at all levels. Tactically, it aims to support distributed operations across all the services and the ability to service the right target at the right time with the appropriate weapon.

JADC2 aims to have a single tactical network that integrates sensors from the military services to support decisions at the speed of relevance. The current environment has services and partners sharing disparate tactical networks that are incompatible with each other. As a result, these networks do not support the dynamic data-sharing and analysis needed for timely decision-making.

As conceived, JADC2 will operate all the way from the highest military command echelons down to the tactical edge, which generally means outside the continental United States (OCONUS). The cloud(s) supporting JADC2 must do the same. Cloud technologies, including automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, are integral to enabling the JADC2 concept and are needed at the tactical edge. Warfighters often need to access, analyze, and distribute information in a denied, disconnected, intermittent, or limited environment. They cannot rely on reach-back to CONUS to correlate perishable information collected locally and leverage analytical tools to support informed decision-making. The JADC2 cloud environment must also be able to support OCONUS operations at no less than the secret level.

Recently, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Hon. Kathleen Hicks, directed DoD to achieve a data advantage by transforming itself into a data-centric organization. To that end, she directed the Defense Digital Service to identify “near-term options to accelerate the adoption of enterprise data management and data analytics capability.” This directive places more pressure on the JADC2 program with respect to ensuring that its supporting cloud(s) investments can support the necessary data-centric architecture.

Therefore, a critical element of JADC2’s usefulness will be its ability to support data-centric architecture at the DoD enterprise level. Within this framework, data is independent of a single application and has tremendous value to support analytics and timely decisions. Supporting JADC2’s architecture will require an integrated, resilient OCONUS cloud capable of handling classified information. The JADC2 cloud(s) also will needs to interface with mission-critical applications and analytical tools hosted in multi-cloud and on-premises environments.

DoD had planned to employ the JEDI contract to provide the necessary, commercially-based, classified cloud environment to support JADC2. When that contract was cancelled earlier this year, the Pentagon went in search of an alternative approach to acquiring the desired capabilities. The new Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC) intends to award enterprise cloud services directly to multiple off-premises cloud service providers to support JADC2.

Although JWCC’s approach is sufficient for the development, sustainment, and operations of mission-critical applications across the military services, it is counter to JADC2’s vision of having a single integrated cloud capability. Moreover, it is likely that JADC2 will still require an additional enterprise-wide cloud platform to integrate and distribute the data from these multi-cloud environments.

There are reports that DoD is only weeks away from completing its implementation plan for JADC2. The plan focuses on deploying a set of “minimally viable products” including agile software development tools, new identity and credential access management capabilities, and cloud computing within the next few years.

If the Pentagon wants to get JADC2 up and running in the next few years, it will need a capable cloud computing environment immediately. Currently, milCloud 2.0 is the only DoD enterprise-wide commercial cloud contract. Moreover, in its present configuration, milCloud 2.0 can support JADC2 with a data-centric architecture. It would allow different applications and service-based information systems to share data across domains and down to the tactical edge. It would also host mission-critical applications up to the secret level and provide cloud solutions that are resilient and globally accessible.

Recently, General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) added Amazon Web Services (AWS) to the milCloud 2.0 family. This means DoD will have streamlined access to AWS’s leading cloud services, including application development, data analytics, machine learning, edge computing, and end user computing. Users will have immediate access to AWS’s off-premises cloud centers. From here, the evolution to a JWCC-compatible cloud environment will be relatively easy.

It is critically important to get a core set of JADC2 capabilities up and running as soon as possible. This is particularly true for the necessary cloud computing architecture. The only way to do this is to take advantage of the existing DoD enterprise-wide cloud contract: milCloud2.0.

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Dan Gouré, Ph.D., is a vice president at the public-policy research think tank Lexington Institute. Gouré has a background in the public sector and U.S. federal government, most recently serving as a member of the 2001 Department of Defense Transition Team. You can follow him on Twitter at @dgoure and the Lexington Institute @LexNextDC. Read his full bio here.

Written By

Dr. Goure is Senior Vice President with the Lexington Institute, a nonprofit public-policy research organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. He is involved in a wide range of issues as part of the institute’s national security program.