Deconstructing Information Superiority in a Distributed Joint Command and Control (C2) Enterprise Environment

June 11, 2022

Information in C2

Information has always been the most important resource for decision-making in command and control (C2) and information that directly feeds planning and operational decisions will stay the key determinant of mission success or failure. Information is however also a highly perishable resource in high-tempo operational environments where decision cycles are time compressed. Moreover, with the growing number of sensors employed to meet intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) requirements, the amount of information becoming available to commanders, their staff and edge warfighters has grown exponentially. In the context of such massive growth of information streams, the risk of commanders and warfighters becoming overwhelmed and disoriented by information burden and cognitive overload presents a significant – and growing – risk. Managing the information burden on C2 enterprises through robust information management (IM) will become more critical than ever before to guard against potentially performance degrading risks.

The Information Challenge

IM has become more complex with the evolving nature and dynamics of information warfare (IW), as the integration and growing role of the cyberspace generates a widening matrix of vulnerabilities for adversaries to target. With IW, the information position of commanders, their staff and warfighters – the abstract measure of the differential between the information requirement (IR) and information availability (IA) – is placed under new types of stress. IRs can be understood in terms of the five W’s – Who (the subject), What (the activity of subject), Where (the area of activity), When (the time window of the IR) and Why (what decision-making the IR relates to), whereas IA is defined in relation to the reliability, accessibility and timeliness of decision-feeding information. The IR and IA are inherently fluid in terms of how they are defined at given point during the operational cycle: When IA is able to deliver the IR, the information position is strong and the resulting situational awareness (SA) allows improved decision-making.

When IA cannot fulfil the IR, the information position is weak and C2 decision-making – and by extension, operational performance – is effectively degraded. As the IR and IA are constantly in flux and evolving, the information position of the Joint Force is highly dynamic, particularly during high-tempo operations associated with beating anti-access/area denial (A2AD) and advanced IW environments. Provisioning the IR and ensuring the right information reaches the right person at the right time therefore requires increasing levels of automation to be built into the planning and operations processes. Creating favorable information positions for superior SA and improved decision-making depends critically on being able to exploit automation in generating, fusing, exploiting and protecting decision-supporting data, information and intelligence resources. The effective application of process automation can reduce the risks of information burden, optimize IM and integrate and better gear IW toward a common purpose.

Increasing Automation

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have a pivotal role in managing the risks of information burden and countering IW threats increasingly harvested on C2 elements. In the United States, the joint all domain operations command and control (JADC2) construct presents C2 as a distributed and dynamic enterprise powered by the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), which exploits the embedded application of AI and ML to improve the speed and quality of decisions-making, including by reducing the information burden and cognitive overload on users. AI and ML algorithms will automatically decompose the IR into specific, sensor-relevant collection needs, task available collection or targeting assets and rapidly gather and fuse data into decision-relevant information. This promulgation and federation of data, information and intelligence to and from the unit level via cloud-based applications will generate a comprehensive battlespace visualization to headquarter elements and edge warfighters in forward combat at once.

Cyberspace operations, information operations and ISR derived from a multi-domain sensor network integrated with – or by – ABMS will enable the most current battlespace reality to be accurately and instantly projected to tactical decision-makers. Massive Multiple-In Multiple-Out (MIMO) communications, which enable spatial channelization and diversity to allow individual force units to simultaneously send and receive multiple data streams, will allow the possibility of a distributed service-based architecture which creates the most robust real-time picture ever generated – extending across situation monitoring, threat warning, collection management, and targeting intelligence. ABMS will therefore provision the information necessary for mission success and allow tactical commanders to respond to evolving situations by thinking ahead of adversarial effects and maneuvers. In this way, ABMS will function as an AI-assisted repository for information but also an integrator for multi-domain effects and solutions.

Getting it Integrated

IW presents a persistent complex threat to ABMS and the IM enterprise so its integration will be essential for achieving economy of force and the operational synergy necessary for the Air Force to function at peak performance. The intelligence community, IM and IW enterprises outside the Air Force can contribute a myriad of information resources to the ABMS mosaic and it will be just as crucial that mission results from the unit level can be shared back to the intelligence community and external IW enterprises by the Air Force. The transition from static, foundational databases into a worldwide web-like application with the ABMS is vital for enhancing the integration of decision-enhancing information. A paradigm shift is necessary for the ways in which producers, curators and consumers of information warfare (IW) conduct their relative operations so that they can be geared to defending ABMS and presenting it adversarial vulnerabilities to target. New mechanisms and security protocols are needed so that AI-generated cross-domain solutions for IW, intelligence and platform-derived data can be shared through rapid, continuous and simultaneous two-way transfers in ways that are reliable and secure.

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