ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Top military leaders signified a new level of cooperation on joint war fighting in an all-day meeting Jan. 26 to hash out data standards to connect the services’ largely disparate projects to work together to compete against Russia and China.

Meanwhile, the Army shared details with C4ISRNET Tuesday about a successful lab demonstration of a data exchange with the Air Force, mirroring the type of cross-communication needed to achieve the Pentagon’s goal to connect targeting information from any source to the best shooter from any service, an effort known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control. The Army allowed C4ISRNET to tour the facility’s C5ISR Center experimental environments, set to become a central hub in integrating systems across services.

“This is probably the first time that I have seen a level of cooperation and commitment to an outcome,” Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, the CIO/J-6 of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told C4ISRNET in an interview at Aberdeen. “So in addition, this is simply the moving of these ideas, which I think are pretty novel, and moving them to a plan, where we have mission threads, places to start, and a genuine desire to challenge authorities, resources and processes if they don’t fit the rapid nature, and the type and scope of work that we need to do to get this outcome.”

With the Joint Chiefs leading the project, Crall has been vocal in calling for cooperation on JADC2, stating that old data governance models will not be successful as the services look to connect their networks. In future battles against technologically advanced adversaries, the services must rapidly exchange information to enable commanders to make quick decisions, such as putting fires on target.

Crall called the meeting, as reported by Breaking Defense, to work toward agreement on common data management practices to ease the services’ ability to share information, moving away from JADC2 efforts that have largely been “anything goes,” which he called unsustainable.

Data underpins the Pentagon's CJADC2 concept, but experts say cultural barriers stand in the way of the services sharing their data. (Alejandro Peña/U.S. Air Force)

One step accomplished at the meeting was agreeing on a definition of a common data fabric, a task that Crall said seems “simple, but it’s complex.” The people in the meeting who worked out that definition included officials from the Joint Chiefs, Pentagon chief data officer office, Army, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Defense Intelligence Agency, Defense Information Systems Agency, combatant commands, Department of Homeland Security, and NATO.

Here’s the wording they settled on: The data fabric is “a DoD federated data environment for sharing information through interfaces and services, to discover, understand and exchange data with partners across all domains, echelons and security levels.”

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