In March of 2022, an article entitled “A Solution Desperately Seeking Problems: The Many Assumptions Of JADC2” penned by Maggie Smith and Jason Atwell of the Modern War Institute at West Point articulated a simple yet controversial question at the top of the minds of many regarding the Department of Defense’s highest profile modernization initiative: “Is JADC2 a solution desperately seeking problems?” Today, more than fifteen months later, their question remains valid, with limited evidence of material progress against the DOD’s JADC2 objectives. However, there is one initiative that appears closest to realizing some of the goals of JADC2 albeit in a more narrowly defined mission: The Joint Fires Network.
In their article, Smith and Atwell accurately characterized JADC2 as the DOD’s “theoretically simple (and practically complicated) idea of linking everything to everything else, at all times, and using artificial intelligence to achieve information advantage and decision dominance in conflict.” Smith and Atwell went on to highlight that “despite sounding impressive and promising complete interoperability, there is little evidence that JADC2 can achieve its stated goals, or that the underlying technologies will be resilient in combat.” In simpler terms, they questioned whether JADC2 is a concept well suited to diagrams and briefings, but overly expensive and poorly suited to design, development, and deployment against peer adversaries.
As BCE’s team has monitored the DOD’s evolution out of “network-centric warfare” initiatives in the early 2000s to where we stand today, we have highlighted three key barriers hindering progress towards all-encompassing JADC2 objectives:
1. A lack of clear, common data standards across platforms, domains, services, and partner nations
2. An uncertain roadmap for the integration of legacy hardware and the design of new systems
3. Unclear ownership of the mission to develop JADC2
Each of these factors have hindered progress, frustrated the industrial base, and caused bill payers to critique spending levels. Where is the clear roadmap with measurable milestones? Where are the franchise programs for the industrial base to capture? And where are the successes needed for congress to rationalize continued spending?
Despite the skepticism surrounding broader JADC2 efforts, more focused initiatives with limited scope targeting tightly defined missions provide some optimism. In particular, the Joint Fires Network initiative highlights the potential for JADC2 as a concept. The Joint Fires Network, described by USINDOPACOM Commander Admiral John Aquilino as “the mechanism by which we would integrate, synchronize and utilize to deliver effects anywhere in the battlespace…whether they be fires effects or logistics requirements, and synchronize those actions across the board,” shows signs of promise.
BCE’s global A&D team is closely monitoring the development of the Joint Fires Network, both as a stand-alone effort and as a key enabling capability for JADC2. To learn more about BCE’s global A&D team’s thoughts surrounding the Joint Fires Network, JADC2, and the broader defense industry or how we support clients in strategy development and refinement, market assessment, competitive intelligence, customer insights, and build/buy/partner decisions please email firstname.lastname@example.org.