Editor’s note: This article was updated Nov. 30, 2023, to correctly identify Rep. Darrell Issa.
WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers are urging the Department of Defense to prioritize the Indo-Pacific as it interlinks soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and their disparate databases in a multibillion-dollar effort known as Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control.
Companion bills filed this week by Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, and Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, instruct the department to address Indo-Pacific Command’s long-range networking and intelligence-sharing needs first. The command’s remit includes China and North Korea, as well Australia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The Biden administration considers the region critical to international stability and financial well-being.
By seamlessly connecting forces across all environments, including cyber and space, U.S. defense officials hope to outwit and outshoot tech-savvy adversaries of the future. Establishment of such links has been piecemeal as the services each have their own contribution to the connectivity campaign, and outdated or siloed technologies have hampered in-the-field collaboration.
The JADC2 Implementation Act, as the legislation is known, motivates “the right people and programs at the Pentagon to deploy needed strategies in a transformative way,” Issa said in a statement Nov. 27. “These capabilities will be a force multiplier for military efforts abroad and achieve smooth and efficient integration of warfighting units on the battlefield.”
The geography of the Indo-Pacific, too, poses unique challenges. Vast expanses of water, with islands strewn throughout, dares connectivity while dense foliage impedes signals and extreme weather events foil logistics.
Untangling it all to find the right solutions, and soon, is critical, according to Ernst. The bills require regular updates on activities, including the deployment of a joint data integration system handled by the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office. The office was established in 2021 and has since played a significant role in the CJADC2 pursuit.
“No matter the service branch, commanders should have access to critical capabilities to best equip our warfighters and better coordinate our military’s efforts across air, land, sea, space, and cyber,” Ernst said in a statement. “Through the Joint All-Domain Command and Control Implementation Act, I’m working with Congressman Issa to further integrate our joint forces and give commanders better access to the tools they need to achieve their mission.”
The Defense Department in fiscal 2024 requested $1.4 billion for CJADC2. It said the funding was necessary to “transform warfighting capability.” Lawmakers have previously questioned related price tags and timelines.
The proposals in both chambers are congruent with plans outlined last year in drafts of the National Defense Authorization Act. At the time, senators advocated for a joint headquarters for CJADC2 alongside INDOPACOM as well as quarterly demonstrations of tech maturation.
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.