An Australian Perspective on the Exemplar JADO Mission
By John Conway
This in-depth feature outlines the need for a unifying mission to replace the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency narrative of the past two decades because it’s crucial to define the ends before choosing the ways – and current military thinking is too focused on ‘how’ as the answer.
On 2 May 1999 while conducting a suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD) mission over Serbia, USAF F-16CG aircraft callsign Hammer 34 was shot down by a surface to air missile (SAM) battery. It was the opening phase of the NATO-led mission, Operation ALLIED FORCE, the airpower-led use of force to change the situation on the ground and prevent the killing of civilians in Bosnia by irregular Serbian forces.
Unfortunately, the use of airpower in ALLIED FORCE was beset by problems of authority and rules of engagement. The ‘dual-key’ strike approvals slowed down the targeting process, dynamic targeting was slow, and the European winter forced the US and NATO allies to rely on GPS-guided all-weather weapons which quickly ran out.
Compounding the problems for NATO was an aggressive and clever adversary fighting on their own terrain. The Serbs knew NATO would not commit to an all-out ground offensive and found novel ways to degrade air power’s effectiveness.
After 1999, ALLIED FORCE became a catalyst for improvements to US airpower – improvements in targeting, to all-weather weapons, in service-level integration, and in the structure of C2 in a coalition. The improvement of targeting databases to ensure information was accurate and constantly updated, and the use of ISR to gain the required intelligence for rapid dynamic strikes against fleeting targets.
In Iraq in 2003, the overwhelming success of airpower combined with ground manoeuvre was partly an outcome of the detailed operational evaluation following ALLIED FORCE.
The pilot of Hammer 34 that day in 1999 was USAF Lt Col David Goldfein. Today, General Goldfein is the USAF Chief of Staff Gen Goldfein’s rapid recovery by the USAF Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is a compelling story on its own, and the experience shaped his career and has developed his thinking so extensively it now forms his legacy.
Gen Goldfein sits atop the USAF decision-making tree and knows the type of future conflicts the US and its allies are facing. While the technology and speed has increased, many of the underlying problems that come from facing an adaptive, thinking adversary remain.
-The operations in Bosnia had similar complexity to those likely to be encountered in South-East Asia, the Pacific Rim and Eastern Europe today. These include the use of proxy forces to complicate decision-making, the requirement to fight in a coalition with non-traditional partners, high levels of political engagement to retain public support, and adversaries who have studied our traditional advantages and how to negate them.
Gen Goldfein understands future operations require enhanced levels of synchronisation between offensive and defensive counter air (OCA & DCA) systems. Air superiority is no longer assured due to “anti-access and area denial (A2AD) threats, reduced freedom of manoeuvre, and rapid proliferation of advanced technologies,” he has said.
In response, the US military has developed the Joint All-Domain Operations (JADO) concept, and the glue inside JADO is Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2).
The US Army describes JADC2 as ‘not a single physical thing’, but ‘a combination of technology, new processes, and new organizations to enhance situational awareness, decrease reaction time, and enable continuous integration across all domains’.
JADC2 is meant to ‘enable any shooter, with any sensor, through any command and control node in near-real time, with the appropriate authorities to employ joint and mission-partner effects.’ It says the time gained through increased interoperability will give friendly forces ‘decision advantage’ over any adversary.
In plain English, JADC2 is the rapid targeting of an adversary by linking sensors and weapons systems in air, space, land, sea, and cyberspace.
CREATING POWER IS DIFFERENT TO FORCE
There appears to be little Australia could replicate or buy into when it comes to JADC2, as the concept is designed to deliver an updated version of American scientific management principles applied to the US art of warfighting and power projection.
But upon closer analysis, there are implications for Australia. Any significant change in the way the US military conceives, equips, organises, or prepares for operations can quickly leave the ADF out of sync, and unable to participate in a meaningful way in the type of coalition operations expected by the Australian Government.
In Bosnia the junior NATO partners became a limitation on the effectiveness of US airpower, and a decade later they were sidelined and given minor roles in Afghanistan and Iraq. Australia needs to understand JADC2 and its implications for our force. Whether we become an active participant in JADC2 is a different question.
Creating power is different to creating a force, in the same subtle way that integration is different to synchronisation. Power and synchronisation are higher order functions, each with a direct rather than derived relationship with time. You need to create a force to create power. The force design contributes to strategy, it is not a strategy.
Spending vast sums of Australian taxpayers’ money on a force design that attempts to replicate a US system – which is designed to create US military power through the sustainment of a permanent domestic manufacturing and employment base – is never going to work in Australia.
But while joint-force integration is an essential activity, the creation and synchronisation of military sea, land, air, space, and information power with the other elements of national power is the goal. Achieving this goal, which delivers an advantage in time and space regardless of the prevailing operational circumstances, now requires a new question and new thinking.
Since 1945 the US military has focused on science and technology as the answer, applying a scientific management approach to warfare that separates it into domains and areas of specific technological expertise. This is partly cultural and partly a way of organising an extremely complex human endeavour on an industrial scale. For the US, warfare and its associated means of production is probably the most complex closed system imaginable, comparable to a society but still subject to rules and defined outcomes.
Those rules and outcomes play out in the US budget approvals process and involve the regular introduction of new ‘bumper-sticker’ definitions describing war. These slogans are often designed in the Pentagon to signal unity against a common adversary, yet mask the fierce underlying battle for resources between the services.
The Pentagon’s latest search for a unifying principle to solve the problem of a perceived decline in its relative power has, this time, been framed within the context of JADO.
The prominence of JADC2 is largely because there are six US services – Space and Cyber now being on the same level as the Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marines. With the additional services comes increased organisational complexity, as traditional decision-making hierarchies clash with new ideas about the ways and means of achieving control of a domain – the core business of each military service.
WILL JADO WORK?
Australia and regional nations must be aware of unnecessary distractions and issues unique to the US military-industrial complex. These domestic debates can waste time and effort by diverting attention away from details that are relevant to the scale and context of US-Australian interoperability. Compared to the US, Australia’s acquisition and sustainment processes are streamlined and integrated.
Dr Morgan Dwyer, a Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) describes the US criteria for success as providing top-down direction to guide the bottom-up technical development and demonstration of JADC2, as well as the need to simultaneously address ‘one of the toughest problems in the Pentagon: who is in charge?’
In a recent paper Dr Dwyer reviewed the emergence of the USAF Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) as the leading technical solution for JADC2. She notes the difficult resourcing choices ahead regarding priorities, especially in relation to command and control and identifying core missions that drive high-end requirements for JADO.
Dr Dwyer observed that “the Air Force’s work will undoubtedly raise questions of operational and acquisition authorities that the Air Force cannot address alone … it will encounter organisational constraints that impede its ability to operate and acquire new technology jointly”. She believes that, making the most of the Air Force’s investment “requires a commitment from Department of Defense leadership to not only build technical links between sensors and shooters but organisational links as well”.
Until now, that top-down direction has been lacking. Questions remain about the purpose of JADO/JADC2 – Will it work? What is its relevance and application for Australia and other US Allies?
In the absence of US Joint doctrine for JADO and JADC2, in March 2020 General Goldfein released Air Force Doctrine Note 1-20. He stated, “recent studies, war games, and collected observations show a need to provide a clear and comprehensive doctrinal framework for conducting JADO.”
The doctrine note, USAF Role in Joint All-Domain Operations, concedes the US’ comparative military advantage has been eroded to the point where new thinking is needed to deter and defeat adversaries that are technologically advanced and have evolved their operational approach. It also provides an insight into the gaps and risks associated with the integration and synchronisation of future operations involving the US military services.
It acknowledges the USAF already participates in JADO but that “such operations are primarily conducted in permissive environments and are not subject to the stresses likely to exist in a contested operating environment across the competition continuum.” These stresses include denied communications and decentralised operations from forward bases at risk from air and missile attack.
In many scenarios the US can still rely upon overwhelming firepower underwritten by a nuclear deterrent to meet its objectives. But there are some objectives that will need each of the Services to operate together in a distributed way at high tempo to counter sophisticated adversary systems-approaches to warfighting.
This requires an emphasis on speed, rapid decision-making, and acting faster than an opponent. Gen Goldfein believes “the proper application of a coordinated force across multiple domains can produce effects that exceed the contributions of forces employed individually”.
His top-down guidance provides a common framework upon which each of the services can focus their attention on the most demanding missions. These missions will need the synchronised, multi-domain approach envisioned within JADO “to rapidly sense, command and control, target, and support actions across all warfighting domains”.
But to do so it must address integration shortfalls in the command of joint operations and stovepiping. These shortfalls limit “synergies between activities in separate domains, create vulnerabilities and reduce the capacity for dynamic exploitation of opportunities”.
Although these JADO/JADC2 integration shortfalls reflect the scale of US power projection and globally-integrated operations, there are factors applicable for Australia and the region.
As well as deficiencies in C2 and sensing, the doctrine note outlines the need for ‘Agile Support’ including ‘All-Domain Protection’ and ‘Resilient Sustainment and Logistics’. Integration shortfalls extend beyond technological interoperability. They include operational challenges due to the USAF no longer being able to assume that control of the air will be achieved through a superior air combat capability operating from sanctuary air bases with uncontested supply chains.
Perhaps the most significant shortfall is in component planning and the need for operations with space and cyberspace. These two domains must be promoted from historical supporting roles to provide ‘synergistic effects in air, space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum’.
FULL SPECTRUM TARGETING
The key integrating function in this activity is targeting.
As described in Accelerating Warfare in the Nov-Dec 2018 issue of ADBR, targeting is the sum of the effort to combine intelligence, political, legal, environmental, technological, conceptual, and moral factors into the way Western states plan and execute military campaigns and operations. It is a critical, data-intensive process that generates power by linking strategy to individual tasks and activities in each of the domains.
In the USAF doctrine note targeting is mentioned on many occasions, not just in terms of its criticality to successful JADO, but also in the context of creating an information advantage. This information advantage becomes a core element of the US definition of JADC2, defined as ‘the art and science of decision-making to rapidly translate decisions into action, leveraging capabilities across all domains and with mission partners to achieve operational and information advantage in both competition and conflict’.
In turn, information advantage is described as ‘the application of information capabilities including space, cyberspace, EMS, and influence, resulting in comparative advantage to support all-domain operations. It includes intense targeting of adversary command and control and intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting.’
Specifically, ‘JADO should enable the engagement of thousands of targets in hundreds of hours’. Yet targeting at the scale and speed described here requires an enterprise approach to the management, access, and distribution of data, without which all the talk about information advantage, JADC2, and JADO will amount to nought. ‘A central challenge of JADO is turning large amounts of multi-source data into actionable intelligence, enabling leaders to drive operations by observing, orienting, deciding, and acting correctly based on the that information’.
Dr Dwyer’s analysis describes the data problem in the following terms, “Technical solutions to the problem of JADC2 enable operators to detect and effect targets. Therefore, in developing ABMS, the Air Force first needs to decide what data to collect and connect. Next, it needs to identify who tasks sensors to collect that data and who adjudicates competing priorities when sensors are assigned more than one task. The Air Force also needs to determine who will store and analyse data and who will decide to initiate an effect, task relevant shooters, and adjudicate competing priorities.”
Getting the technical aspects of data and targeting right solves a significant part of the any sensor, any shooter problem but ‘operationalising’ the JADC2 solution to the point where it can be used in anger will generate extraordinary challenges in preparedness.
The ability to test, evaluate and train the six US services in a contested and denied JADO context will be covered in a later edition of ADBR. At some point though, it will require the prioritisation of the likely missions where JADC2 is essential.
The past two decades were dominated by a military focus on counterinsurgency and counterterrorism that involved operations in all domains. The emerging multi-domain narrative has yet to mature to the point where its core mission is clear to the DOD, lawmakers, and industry alike. Given Gen Goldfein’s eagerness to take the lead, it is likely the USAF intends JADC2 to be established for the counter air mission.
A significant amount of the ADF force structure – the ways and means to achieve power – is provided by the US. To realise the full capability of the force ‘bottom-up’ design thinking is needed to generate an integrated joint force that can operate across all domains in our area of strategic interest and still integrate with the US.
Top-down thinking requires a different approach with an emphasis on systems thinking. The combination of systems thinking with design thinking links strategy and task. Both are needed because bottom-up thinking generates the force, while top-down thinking generates power. For example, in the US approach to counter air there is a requirement for a higher-order mission that unifies the services with a common goal, linking strategy to task. This mission is best characterised as counter command.
Counter command would be the exemplar mission executed within the JADO concept of operations, and enabled by JADC2. The purpose would be the synchronisation of domain contributions and the whole of government apparatus.
A counter command narrative signals intent, and JADO describes to an adversary the conceptual sophistication of a military force. But counter command explains what that force is going to achieve. Instead of targeting objects, counter command first and foremost removes the levers of power and control from military and political leadership. It isolates them as a group. The unstated intent is to target the individual, and the outcome is to provide a choice to an adversary that does not rely on a strategy of annihilation. The counter command mission is the off-ramp to negotiation and settlement.
While the US approach to JADO and its enabling JADC2 takes shape, we should be assured by the associated level of scrutiny. Gen Goldfein’s doctrine note is compelling and is sure to be adopted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the basis for future US joint doctrine. If successful, multi-domain operations should be able to bridge the divide between tactical excellence and strategic failure which continues to characterise modern conflicts in the Middle East and South Asia involving the US and its allies.
A synchronised counter command system, enabled by the Five Eyes intelligence sharing arrangements, and regional security frameworks, could be the answer. The question is how to build a counter command system to protect Australia and its interests. Targeting and a joint platform data is a good start point.
In the US military this requires JADC2 – specifically the ABMS – to deliver an integrated counter air system with unified command arrangements and multi-domain expertise. Counter air is a joint mission and is approached by the services in different ways through different organisations and mission systems, with different cultures and views from and within their domains.
For example, the US Army has its own Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS) for the Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) mission, and the US Navy conducts counter air using the Naval Integrated Fires-Counter Air (NIF-CA) concept.
These are the bottom-up systems that provide the ways and means of warfighting. However, the question remains. ‘in order to do what?’ Despite the services’ willingness to co-operate within the framework of JADO/JADC2, it remains to be seen whether it is too vague a concept to be of any operational use.
It would be wrong to simply view the JADC2 challenges though the counter air lens. There are non-operational challenges, with projects, programs and the allocation of resources also an important part of the mix. The number and complexity of interfaces and requirements across the services is too difficult to contain within a single integration project. At some point, the mission must be better defined to enable top-down to synchronise with bottom-up.
When Professor Freedman wrote about the creation of power he was referring to the art of strategy. Force design and technical concepts are a science. The development of the force contributes to the creation of power. Concepts linking a force together like JADC2 are just as important as systems when building a force, but systems and operational concepts need to have an underlying mission and intent that is more sophisticated than ‘better, faster’.
It wasn’t until the US started targeting the command and decision-making apparatus in Belgrade and key Serb leadership that negotiations started. Not leadership targeting, but denying the ability to command. Twenty years of counterinsurgency has taught us that tactical targeting is not the answer to winning a campaign, despite its crushing success on the battlefield.
The counter command mission with an enabling system linked to clear strategic goals is how we avoid losing the next conflict.