The term "multi-domain, joint forces interoperability" might sound overwhelming. Still, when you boil it down, all it means is that modern militaries need to collect from many places, process the data, and transmit data to many warfighters. When this happens over multiple domains—land, air, sea, cyber—across military branches and numerous countries, you're dealing with multi-domain, joint forces data interoperability challenges. These complex challenges call for unique and innovative coalesced solutions.
Historically, there's always been a desire to move decision-making from centralized command-and-control to the edge of the battlefield. The shorter the distance and the fewer information bottlenecks, the shorter the decision-making timeframe. That need for greater efficiency across joint forces drives significant changes in the field. From a doctrinal perspective, the U.S. Department of Defense is focused on ensuring all branches and domains utilize the same pervasive language and agree on how we're exchanging information and acting upon it across all allied forces.
Over the past few years, governmental funding has been funneled into infrastructure requirements to ensure platform and systems data interoperability. Now, the Department of Defense is focusing on research and development for machine learning and artificial intelligence advancements, which will lead to more solutions that support a more comprehensive joint forces interoperability model.
However, three key hurdles stand in the way:
- Disjointed processes & prioritizations across the services. Each branch has its unique doctrines, integration techniques, deployment, logistics, and maintenance needs. There is no overarching commonality in how these individual forces enable end-to-end capability validation and wartime readiness. While there is progress toward more joint enablement models, they have separate platforms and respective methods in which they like to share, collect, analyze, and disseminate actionable information.
- No centralized program for interoperability. There are no comprehensive cross-service programs for common technology development, capability manufacturing, and field deployment to achieve full interoperability. The lack of programs makes it more difficult to predict where the market will go and what technology will be compatible as competing options and priorities evolve.
- Long-lead lifecycles. The main challenge with interoperability between existing platforms is the long lead times to upgrade the field. Technology deployment will have to accelerate with newly developed technology, creating battlespace breakthrough paradigms.
These challenges must be addressed in the context of a global competition for defense data superiority. Better, faster decisions, driven by data, will be the key to success in future conflicts, as well as their de-escalation. The U.S. and our allies recognize the need for several initiatives to coordinate how data is shared and used across platforms. New methods of getting technology to the field quickly, from leveraging commercial-off-the-shelf equipment to simplified procurement vehicles (OTAs), are improving the speed of technology change in the field.
This faster technology deployment is where Benchmark thrives, providing engineering support using a flexible model to deliver defense-qualified systems on condensed timelines. As the U.S. and its allies move toward a common interoperability model, we can more easily develop and manufacture upgrades to existing platforms. Leveraging years of experience with defense sensor systems and standards, Benchmark is also working closely with our customers to predict where interoperability demands will land in the future and helping to deliver solutions to meet those challenges.
In the future, the defense industry will see a lot more conversation and competition around the vital question: what do we think is the most effective and efficient way to implement these interoperable systems? With global competition in place, the search for viable solutions will remain strong until it becomes a reality.