The JAPCC Conference 2019
‘For NATO, every day of peace is a victory.’
Conferences tend to come and go. The initial enthusiasm for what has been discussed and what has been decided can sometimes be forgotten in the pressure to get back to the ‘day job’ and to contend with all the problems that have been waiting back in the office. However, the JAPCC now has a responsibility to ensure that the key takeaways from this conference are, firstly, not forgotten but, much more importantly, to ensure that concrete actions are taken to advance the discussion and implementation of MDO for NATO.
So how can the JAPCC play a part in moving the Alliance forward? It was stated during the conference that MDO requires three things: Connecting, Decision-Making, and Responding at Speed. To do this, NATO requires a networked force with resilient and self-healing mesh networks. NATO cannot afford to wait until it has the perfect set-up for this or until the perfect solution is in place. It needs to take incremental steps towards this every day. The NATO alliance, assisted by its centres of excellence, is an ideal environment in which to ‘Connect, Share and Learn’. One example of this was ably demonstrated by representatives from the C2COE at the conference in their presentation on the tools required to support MDO. As they said, ‘The Dodos did not go extinct because of the Dutch who ate them … but because they were simply not multi-domain’.
It was sobering to learn – in the example about GPS jamming from Russian ships in the Eastern Mediterranean – that one of NATO’s potential adversaries may be embracing the principles of mission command that we long believed were much more likely to be used by NATO. Procedures supported by a mix of legacy technologies and lengthy chains of command – where decisions must be relayed upwards for ultimate approval to then come back to commanders in the field – are not the way to conduct operations in the 21st Century. If they are, then we can be sure that more agile opponents will be aware of this and use it to their advantage.
Resilience is a term that is often used to describe the electronic networks needed to support processes. However, resilience is also needed in the human networks – the command structures from operational level and on to tactical levels – when far-reaching decisions need to be taken rapidly. Some evidence suggests that C2 paradigms may have reversed between East and West since the early 1990s. The Iraqi IADS and military in 1991 were defeated because they were slow, centrally controlled and relied on things like Ground-controlled Intercepts and excessively centralized control that killed initiative, while the coalition was much more decentralized and flexible, and our OODA loop was therefore much tighter. With many engagement authorities being delegated down to Russian ship captains in the Black Sea, for example, while NATO forces have to wait for 29-nation NAC approvals, it seems the situation may have reversed and is no longer in the Alliance’s favour.
Despite the fact that state-of-the-art technologies already exist to support military decision-making processes, NATO Joint Headquarters continue to utilize office software packages (e.g. MS PowerPoint) as one of their visualization tools to support decision-making. Inefficiencies in C2 processes rapidly become a critical vulnerability for a military organization that needs to respond to multiple threats at speed. The two CoEs – the JAPCC and the C2COE – should work together to develop, test and evaluate tools that can be used to enable enhanced situational understanding at the operational level and embed efficient and effective processes that can be executed rapidly and with fewer people having to give their approval. Dedicated tools are required to enable synchronization and deconfliction – and going forward these tools must incorporate interoperability by design, and not wait to address it post-production.
The JAPCC – with its proven expertise and regular involvement in supporting NATO Joint Exercises – is ideally positioned to work with colleagues from other CoEs and other NATO organizations to take this forward and it will form one of the strands of the JAPCC’s programme of work for 2020/21.
It is easy to be a pessimist and to believe that MDO is either some sort of illusory nirvana or that, if real, MDO is all too difficult to achieve. What the 2019 JAPCC Conference helped to demonstrate is that, in actual fact, MDO is neither of these two things.
One result of the conference has been a draft definition of what is meant by the term MDO. This gives NATO a starting point to begin building doctrine for MDO. Projects such as the federated mission network (FMN, discussed earlier), show NATO’s resolve to fully understand and protect cyberspace. The US has made (and continues to make) great strides in protecting space and ensuring NATO’s unfettered access to the key capabilities derived from space. The smaller nations are also beginning to play their part here.
However, there is much work still to be done and the JAPCC stands ready to play its part in doing it. The MDO narrative continues in the C2COE seminar on the subject, to be held in Bratislava in June of 2020. MDO is not going to go away and the 2020 JAPCC Conference will develop the theme further when it takes as its aim …
Leveraging Emerging Technologies in Support of NATO Air & Space Power
See you there!