How AWS Will Support the Emerging JADC2 Vision
The military branches are looking to work together more closely. And the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) vision is central to this effort. This emerging construct “enables the joint force and mission partners to continuously and rapidly integrate efforts across all domains in near-real time,” according to the Army. With vast compute power, ready scalability, and built-in security, the cloud provides key tools to make the endeavor a reality.
As a means of sharing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data, JADC2 is about more than just timely communication; it’s a way of driving more effective action.
“This is about fires, and speedy engagement,” said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Dennis A. Crall, the Joint Staff's director of command, control, communications, and computers—commonly called the J-6.
Crall said JADC2 depends on an enterprise cloud-based computing solution, since the cloud offers a global presence, with speed and scalability, as well as the compute power needed to effectively leverage other emerging technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G networking.
As the military branches move to embrace the JADC2 imperative, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is uniquely positioned to deliver reliable cloud capability that can support mission success for the Defense Department (DoD) across the Mission Partner Environment—the operating framework enabling command and control and information-sharing across the full range of military operations.
The JADC2 Vision
The Pentagon prioritized JADC2 in response to a rapidly changing and highly adversarial landscape.
“Within the battle space, the pace of operations is accelerating all the time,” said Will Metts, national security alliance executive at AWS. “The threats are moving ever faster, and that means there’s an increased need for the ability to sense what’s happening, to make sense of it, and to act on those insights. That is the fundamental focus of JADC2.”
To understand the implications of JADC2’s modernized and interconnected vision, consider a potential scenario: a missile launch detected on the Korean peninsula.
In the current operating environment, information on such a launch passes through multiple hands via disaggregated systems before commanders can make an informed decision. That takes up precious time and introduces the risk of key data falling through the cracks.
JADC2 envisions a far more sophisticated approach.
“An incident occurs and it is quickly assessed by the intelligence community: They provide their assessment to a decision maker, who then determines the best course of action to mitigate the risk,” Metts said. “That information is shared quickly, both across the intelligence community and with each component of our nation's national security apparatus, in order to come to a timely decision as to what course of action needs to be taken.”
“JADC2 will deliver a unified viewing plane,” Metts said. “Everyone will be on the same page and will be able to turn that data into knowledge at the speed that decision makers require.”
The Role of Cloud
The cloud promises to play a key role in helping military leaders to bring to fruition the powerful potential of JADC2.
The cloud already has the global infrastructure needed to support DoD’s vision of a worldwide, interconnected information flow. That infrastructure has been road-tested, as the U.S. Intelligence Community has relied on the cloud for over a decade. And it has the robustness needed to support the AI and machine learning (ML) required to turn those global data streams into actionable intelligence.
The rise of 5G will bring added value to a communications infrastructure based on cloud compute capabilities.
“5G is all about leveraging advances in mobile cellular technology to move data faster,” Metts said. “If you take that ability to move data and add to it the ability to have that data managed by a global cloud computing infrastructure, they become complementary capabilities that together can drive significant operational impact.”
The cloud will bring a number of specific advantages to the implementation of JADC2:
- Will Metts, National Security Alliance Executive, AWS
The AWS Advantage
Even though there are multiple avenues open to military leaders looking to tap the power of cloud in support of joint command and control capabilities, AWS is especially well situated to meet their needs.
The same AWS global infrastructure that has reshaped the nature of consumer interactions worldwide could be leveraged in support of the military mission.
With AWS technology, “you identify a need and turn that need into an order,” Metts said. “That order goes to a fulfillment center and that fulfillment center satisfies the need in as rapid a fashion as the technology of people, transport and delivery will allow.”
That same high degree of functionality—already operating with 99.9 percent reliability—could be used to drive more effective and timely decision making across the military enterprise.
Equally important is the range of services available in the AWS Cloud.
“Our partners in the vendor community, as well as a range of government organizations, are already able to build their algorithms on AWS in support of their various missions,” Metts said. “That robust and active development environment puts AWS in a unique position to enable mission success.”
In fact, AWS has already offered a practical demonstration of how it can leverage cloud to drive the emerging JADC2 vision.
Real-life Use Case
Amid the pandemic, AWS participated in a technical demonstration known as On-Ramp 4 to test edge computing capabilities for the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System, or ABMS. This is the Air Force’s contribution to JADC2.
Organized by the Air Force’s Chief Architect Integration Office, the event took place at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. AWS demonstrated the ability to successfully integrate and deploy a tactical edge node solution leveraging highly resilient network connectivity and communications.
Military leaders gave the demonstration high marks. Preston Dunlap, chief architect for the Air and Space Forces, told reporters the ability to transmit data over classified and unclassified networks “pushes the ball pretty dramatically forward.”
Using AWS Snowball Edge, AWS brought cloud capabilities to a simulated tactical edge location. The result demonstrated capabilities such as DevSecOps and deployment of an AI and ML application and Kubernetes cluster at the edge, and the ability to move development code from unclassified to classified networks.
“On-Ramp was a small-scale event that represents some, but not all, of the functionality of JADC2,” Metts said. “The objective going forward is to think about moving from this small-scale demonstration in Germany to a larger-scale global demonstration. But this begins to show what will be possible when government leverages cloud in support of JADC2.”
For military leaders who see potential in the cloud as a means of supporting future C2 needs, it makes sense to start today on a program of culture change.
“The adoption of cloud computing is still growing throughout the Defense Department. We're seeing top-down efforts to shift the culture toward one that embraces change more quickly,” Metts said.
Critical military decision-making processes will need to be ramped up to support this effort. Cloud is a fast changing landscape and it is helping the military experiment securely, trying out new technologies and new solutions as fast as they become available to get maximum benefit out of their cloud investments going forward.
One way to get there is through proof-of-concept projects. “They can begin with a small-scale effort and then migrate to something that is a bit broader in nature,” Metts said.
AWS, meanwhile, will be watching the landscape and innovating continually in support of this vital military mission set. The company works backward from its customers' problems to get solutions that meet their requirements, which is a cultural difference compared to how the government has acquired services and solutions in the past, Metts said.
“This will be a conversation between us and the customer, a collaborative effort where we together identify best practices and work toward the optimal outcome,” he said. “We want to serve as a strategic partner to make this once-in-a-generation paradigm shift a reality.”