Hicks wants more high-level oversight of the Pentagon’s JADC2 effort

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Written by Brandi Vincent

The way the Pentagon manages its Joint All-Domain Command and Control effort could soon be turned on its head, FedScoop has learned.

A defense official close to Assistant Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks confirmed that Hicks sees the need for “additional, high-level oversight of JADC2 coordination.”

The Joint All-Domain Command and Control initiative aims to better connect the U.S. military’s many sensors, gunners, and networks across land, air, sea, space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum—and ultimately enable battlefield commanders to do better make data-driven decisions faster. However, each of the military departments has its own responsibilities within the overall concept. For the Army it’s Project Convergence, for the Navy and Marine Corps it’s Project Overmatch, and for the Air and Space Forces it’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS).

The Pentagon’s top leadership is not satisfied with the current state of affairs and sees the need to push for more harmonization and coordination between the DOD components.

Meeting with FedScoop and other reporters Thursday during a multi-state tour focused on emerging defense-related technologies, Hicks acknowledged that each of the military services is individually paving the way for JADC2 in remarkable ways – but added that there is a There is a noticeable lack of coordination at the company-wide level that needs to be addressed in the short term.

“Neither the secretary nor I are happy with — where we are in the advanced command and control department,” she said. “Every day in the department you see examples of the speed and quality of decision-making [at the] tactical level, operational level, up to the strategic level, can be improved enormously and create the advantage that we need for the future. A lot of good work is being done throughout the department [but] What I’m really focused on right now is scaling this…good work that’s underway to the enterprise level.”

Hick’s comments follow concerns expressed by other senior Pentagon officials about deficiencies in JADC2 inter-service coordination.

Doug Bush, the Army’s assistant secretary for procurement, logistics and technology, has proposed creating a new high-level office to streamline ongoing initiatives, using the Pentagon’s Joint Counter-small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office as an example of a model that works could for JADC2.

“We have a counter-UAS office. It’s a shared office that actually helps prioritize our investments from a shared perspective,” he said in June at a conference hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association. “That kind of organizing body there could be useful to make sure [JADC2] Requirements are actually set and prioritized to get into the services.”

He also suggested holding more large-scale exercises under the auspices of regional combatant commands like US Indo-Pacific Command “where we actually go and do it on a large scale [in the] field together in a common way … and we’re building on what the services are doing to get some sort of ground truth,” he said. “I know they’re already experimenting a lot, but taking that to the next level to make sure it’s integrated across the squad – that could be another big thing that would move the scale to see what works and what not.”

It’s unclear exactly how — or when — the additional high-level oversight Hicks is calling for could be implemented, but the defense official close to Hicks indicated that it is broadly consistent with the premise of Bush’s proposals.

There is currently a cross-functional team overseeing the implementation of the Pentagon’s JADC2 strategy, with multiple working groups focusing on different areas.

“When we see in the press that the services aren’t aligned behind JADC2, I cringe,” said Rear Adm. Susan BryerJoyner, deputy director for command, control, communications and computer/cyber systems, J-6 for the Joint Staff during a presentation at the AFCEA TechNet Augusta conference on Thursday. “They approach different parts of the problem that need to be solved. They are not incompatible, they complement each other.”

Earlier this year, according to a Department of Defense press release, Hicks signed a secret JADC2 implementation plan that details action plans, milestones and resource requirements, and identifies the DOD organizations responsible for capability delivery.

“If you ask two people what they think JADC2 is, you’re likely to get different answers — and I think that’s partly because we have a hardware-centric approach to how we think about innovation at the Department of Defense. This is truly a software-centric enterprise problem, and our approach will be like this,” Hicks said during her trip last week.

She and other defense officials anticipate further activity related to the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability initiative and the newly established Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office to enable enhanced collaboration across the board.

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