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Integration Challenges Hinder JADC2 Implementation, Air Force Leaders Say

Integrating operational processes across the armed services and information-sharing will hinder JADC2 if left unaddressed.

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Integrating processes and decision-making across the armed services at the tactical and operational levels will be a major hurdle to implementation of the Joint All Domain Command-and-Control (JADC2) concept, U.S. Air Force leaders said Tuesday.

Data interoperability and information-sharing still needs to come a long way to make JADC2 work, they said at the Potomac Officers Club Air Force Summit.

“Within hours to be effective, we have to close the kill chain within minutes,” said Brig. Gen. Jeff “Spaniard” Valenzia, JADC2 cross functional team lead at Air Force Futures (HAF A5/7). “If we try to take that and cross components to do the merging of effects from air and space to generate an outcome, we watch a twofold increase in the time to complete the most simple of decisions for a [previously] designated target. It’s a mess. We’re not doing very well with it.”

Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) don’t necessarily solve this problem, Valenzia added. Those who advocate for running mission-critical data through AI algorithms, he said, have “a flawed understanding of what we’re trying to execute” because a decision as simple as choosing where to point a sensor can be mission-critical and unsuitable for an algorithm to address.

Maj. Gen. Robert Scott Jobe, director of A-5/8/9 Plans within the Programs and Requirements Directorate at Air Combat Command (ACC), said this integration challenge is both bureaucratic and cultural.

“This is a true multi-domain joint fight — none of us think of this is only an Air Force or an Army fight,” Jobe said. “How does the RQ-4 (a remotely piloted intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft) plug into the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) and how does the enterprise deal with the information it collects? A program is not particularly designed for the operational environment it is in, so how do we take F-35s, RQ-4s? How do you integrate those across weapons and planning?”

DAF Digital Transformation Office Chief James Kyle Hurst said the prevalence of “copy and paste” culture across the Air Force also hinders efforts to implement JADC2. Risk aversion can prevent the mindset shift necessary for culture change as well.

“There’s thousands of acquisition programs, so when you talk about culture, that’s a change in the way we do business, and any change is difficult and exhausting and wears you down,” he said during a panel at the event Tuesday. “How we think about risk is important. Any change inevitably becomes a risk. If we have a change and have to take on risk anyway, what if we flip that paradigm on its head and say, how much risk are we willing to accept? Both on practitioner and leadership level, the vast majority of folks are going to want to stick to the status quo.”

Joe Sublousky, vice president of the Science Applications International Corporation’s JADC2 business, said the Air Force needs to “break the culture but not lose it” in order to successfully integrate with the other services.

One way to “break” the culture is to end the practice of over-classification.

“All our challenges have been security constraints — I can’t share this with you because it’s a different classification or you don’t have the ability to know it,” Sublousky said. “Today that’s even more prevalent as an important aspect of what we need to have. Integration [depends] on how well we’re able to share information with ourselves but also with our allies. Deterrence will be based on how we secure and share our information and data and how flexible we are with our data — how we store it, articulate it, get it ready and consume it.”

Air Force Principal Cyber Advisor Wanda Jones-Heath said if integration doesn’t happen, the Air Force and the rest of the armed services will not win against China, which Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall described as one of their biggest threats in his opening keynote.

“Every service has their own interpretation of JADC2,” Jones-Heath said. “I’ve looked at the documentation, and we are not aligned to be interoperable, to be able to fight together, and someone needs to push us where we need to go. How integrated are we with the services so that we can really talk, really share information to make that decision cycle quicker? Do we even know what our networks and critical assets look like? What do we need to have in space from a cybersecurity perspective to win against China? We’re a long way off.”

Hurst believes talent management flexibility will help the Air Force shift its internal culture to get to the right integration mindset for meaningful change.

One of the Air Force’s major priorities is maintaining a hardware advantage over China, but that requires a talent advantage, he said. Sometimes hiring someone with the right qualities and mindset can make a bigger difference than hiring someone with the right pedigree.

“There are some interesting mindset things we can reframe the way we hire and do force structuring, [such as] for character as opposed to hiring for experience,” Hurst said. “One of the things the Air Force needs to push for is flexibility in the kinds of individuals we’re after.”

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