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Joint All-Domain Command and Control is not a new concept. The Defense Department has been talking about linking all data across the enterprise so that decision makers and warfighters can make better decisions in real time for decades. But there have always been barriers, not least of which is that DoD has to be able to operate in the most austere environments and remote locations, including deep underwater and in space.
Technology has finally advanced enough to overcome those barriers.
“It has accelerated in its quality and security so much over the last 10 years that now it’s actually realistic to imagine a scenario where highly advanced sensors that are on ships, planes, tanks and on warfighters themselves can continually feed real time information back to headquarters. That continuous, real-time element is really the key,” said Juliana Vida, chief technical advisor for public sector at Splunk. “And then, using even more advanced technologies like AI and machine learning tools, commanders can make sense of the avalanche of data and intelligence that’s coming at them so fast. They can make better informed decisions, faster and with more confidence.”
Right now, it takes a significant amount of time to get intelligence from the battlefield to the decision makers. Often by the time it reaches them, it’s stale. And in the heat of battle, some catastrophe or casualty may have already rendered it obsolete. But if the time to transmit the data is reduced, then the decision making process will happen faster. Think of it as compressing the OODA loop.”
“Just look at your phone, and your ride sharing app,” Vida said. “It knows where you are, how long it will take the car to get there. You follow the little car on the screen. If they get waylaid the app picks another car. Why shouldn’t the battlefield environment be like that: connected, real time, making adjustments as real world events unfold? Of course, it’s more complex, but that’s the idea. It’s a great starting place for warfighters to consider the art of the possible regarding continuous, data-based decision making.”
Back to the point about technology advancements – that kind of ride share-esque environment is possible now, with the right data platform. First, it must be robust and scalable enough to digest the volume of data being introduced. Getting to that data is often difficult, because so much of it is siloed by organizations and program offices and system integrators, with limited mechanism for sharing it across those siloes. These silos are some of the biggest barriers to achieving the JADC2 vision.
“But when there’s an open API architecture in a data platform like Splunk, it’s easier to just grab the data from wherever it is, in whatever format it resides. It doesn’t have to be in a spreadsheet, it doesn’t have to be in rows and columns. In fact, Splunk works best when data is not structured. The messier and more unstructured, the better.” Vida said. “Then that robust data platform can do analytics against all that data and start making sense of it.”
And that’s when the data starts to become useful to humans. Artificial intelligence and machine learning, built into the platform, can provide insights about supply chains, network security, or whatever other arcane secrets the data holds. And the more data it receives, the better it gets at parsing it.
In fact, technology has progressed to the point that the biggest obstacle still preventing JADC2 from becoming a reality is culture. It’s how the services and components interact, how they share – or don’t share – their data.
“There’s a lot of resistance to actually putting into place processes that are already codified to enhance information sharing,” Vida said. “I’ve observed the friendly banter between the services often trickle down into policy and execution issues that hinder effective teaming and mission execution. The concept of reciprocity has been around for years, but hasn’t significantly accelerated cross-service sharing and collaboration as it was intended. Examples are service X issuing a policy or an ATO that service Y won’t agree to adopt. These delays contribute to slow execution on the JADC2 concept. There are still too many instances where the services just don’t trust each other.”
Vida said one way to change this culture is for DoD leadership to begin always talking in terms of “joint.” After all, the Joint Staff oversees the military, and combatant commands are all joint commands. But until they’re actually fighting a war, the services all operate separately.
“In fact, I would say many military folks don’t even get exposed to the joint concept until they do a tour in the Pentagon, or until they actually serve in one of these overseas combatant commands,” Vida said. “And I think that’s a huge barrier. What leadership can do is start speaking and behaving as if we are a joint force every day, all day. Because that’s what the DoD is. You can’t just assume that if the balloon goes up tomorrow and there’s another world war that all of a sudden now sailors and soldiers and Marines and airmen are going to be linking arms and operating jointly. You can’t just bolt that on.”
So, how to achieve a true JADC2 environment? Walk, talk and behave like a joint force. As trust builds, data and information sharing will accelerate – and commanders can then achieve the ultimate vision of JADC2.