JADC2 Strategy and the Evolution of Modern Warfare: Transforming Beans, Bullets, and Black Oil into Bytes, Boolean, and Backhaul to Win a Decisive Combat Advantage

Bill Nystrom
Bill Nystrom
August 17, 2023 • 10 min read

“Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics” is a common aphorism used amongst defense professionals as they describe confronting the growing complexities of war.  No clearer is this idea outlined than in Rear Adm. Worrall Reed Carter’s 1954 WWII postmortem “Beans, Bullets, and Black Oil,” where he detailed the herculean challenges of afloat naval logistics through the Pacific campaign.  In his summary, he quips, “Victory is won or lost in battle, but all military history shows that adequate logistic support is essential to the winning of battles.” Superior afloat logistics in the Pacific kept constant pressure on the enemy and proved a decisive advantage for the Allies. While combat logistics remains top-of-mind for the modern war planner, a new paradigm is taking shape capitalizing on game-changing advances in information technology that have the potential to enable the rapid orchestration and synchronization of combat effects to create the potential for a new decisive advantage.  The US military has captured this paradigm in a framework referred to as Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) that is poised to redefine modern warfare.

Lessons from WWII: Winning the Logistics Advantage

Often the best way to understand how to create a new combat advantage is to explore how the last one came about. The Pacific theater during WWII was vast and unyielding, a seemingly insurmountable expanse of water and islands. This tyranny of distance made traditional approaches to combat logistics inadequate. The challenge was clear and put into simple terms by Carter, Beans (sustenance), Bullets (ammunition), and Black Oil (fuel) were more than just essentials; they were the lifeblood of Allied operations, and these resources needed to be available to secure victory.

Carter and his team developed new operating concepts, technical organization, and command structures that shifted from traditional logistics methods to a more innovative approach creating mobile floating services squadrons to stand-up ad-hoc regional logistics hubs on demand. These hubs enabled the fleet to operate far from traditional supply bases, extending operational reach.

A key factor in realizing the success of this approach was the integration of commercial resources, especially in fuel supply and repair functions. The Navy’s incorporation of commercial fuel tankers and tugs helped streamline fleet operations. Whether leased or repurposed, commercial capacity became essential elements of the logistics chain, expanding reach across the Pacific. This integration not only increased logistical capacity but also improved route efficiency and allowed for better positioning in contested regions. More importantly, the model scaled. Starting with just 51 vessels of all types in 1940, the Navy’s service force had more than 315 craft by the war’s end. This logistical superiority had significant implications in the Battle of the Pacific.

During WWII, the Pacific Fleet’s afloat logistics effort showcased how adaptability and collaboration between military and commercial sectors can redefine strategic outcomes. By harmonizing military tactics with commercial resources, the Navy surmounted impossible logistical challenges. This synergy between the past serves as a harbinger for the challenges and opportunities ahead as JADC2 moves to the forefront.

Rapid Commercial Technological Advances: The Catalyst for JADC2

Just as commercial advances in logistics aided the strategic shift in the Pacific, technological advances in information technology have redefined the art of the possible in modern conflict.  Staggering advances in high-capacity communications, AI/ML, and cloud technologies have reshaped warfighting platforms with the ability to ingest, analyze, and act upon an immense amount of data at unimaginable speeds. These capabilities are changing the operational pace of war, where the time horizon of significance is compressed from hours and days to seconds and milliseconds.  

From the dense network connectivity of 5G wireless to the global reach of low-latency LEO SATCOM, these innovations are redrawing the boundaries of possibility.  In addition, the omnipresence of cloud computing and the analytical power enabled by customized AI/ML models offer the warfighter new game-changing capabilities. Throw High-Performance Edge Computing and the anticipated emergence of post-quantum encryption into this cauldron, and the JADC2 landscape starts taking shape with a clarity that’s both invigorating and awe-inspiring.

Just as commercial fuel tankers became an integral part of the naval fleet in WWII, modern-day military strategies are rapidly evolving to integrate and leverage these commercial tech innovations. The result? A battlefield framework where every domain — land, air, sea, space, and cyberspace — is not only interconnected but seamlessly integrated for combined effect. This makes relevant and timely information the new battlefield necessity where the new decisive advantage is the decision advantage.

JADC2: Winning the Decision Advantage

Where once Beans, Bullets, and Black Oil drove the logistical rhythm of the military, the modern adaptation relies on Bytes, Boolean, and Backhaul to fuel a new operational tempo.

Bytes: In today’s digital battlefield, data is the new lifeblood. It’s not just about gathering intelligence; it’s about processing, analyzing, and leveraging vast amounts of information in real time. Just as the sustainment of troops with food and essentials was critical in WWII, the sustenance of modern warfare relies on data. It drives intelligence, ensures effective communication, and maintains operational efficiency.

Boolean: Referring to the foundational logic underlying our vast computational advances, Boolean logic is at the core of virtually all computer programming, and every advance is built on this foundation. AI is no exception. In the context of JADC2, the complex algorithms and decision-making tools enabled by Boolean logic drive intelligent analyses, automate processes, and enhance real-time decision-making capabilities. Much like how the availability of bullets in WWII was a key predictor of victory, today’s decisions are fired through the Boolean mechanisms of our computational artillery and will have a similar effect.

Backhaul: In the grand strategy of war, ensuring that fuel supplies reached the front lines was a monumental challenge. In modern warfare, the challenge has shifted to ensuring seamless communication and persistent data transmission across a wide variety of networks. Backhaul, the backbone of network communication, ensures that data not only reaches its intended destination but does so efficiently, securely, and rapidly.

In total, JADC2 is much more than a technological framework; it’s a strategic doctrine that enables our warfighters to adapt to harness the rapid commercial technological advances we see today. Integrating these commercial innovations into military operations at the speed of relevance will be a key determinant of battlefield outcomes against a near-peer adversary.

In a world where the speed of decision-making will mean the difference between success and failure, JADC2 ensures commanders have access to the right information at the right place and at the right time. It’s not just about having a technology advantage; it’s about winning the decision advantage.

Innovation’s Double-Edged Sword and the Imperative of Cybersecurity

With the dawn of JADC2, where Bytes, Boolean, and Backhaul are crucial, the military operational environment is experiencing what can be likened to an Internet of Things (IoT) evolution. Every asset, from a fighter jet to a satellite, becomes a part of this vast interconnected digital web. The advantages of this hyper-connectivity are clear: improved response times, increased situational awareness, and more efficient command and control structures.

However, as with every innovation, the benefits come with inherent challenges. The more we connect, the larger the surface area for potential adversaries to exploit. Every new connection, every added device, can potentially be a vulnerability. This interconnectedness, while providing a new dimension of advantage, also exposes the system to new threats. In a way, it’s like the challenges faced during WWII, where every supply route opened could also be a potential target for enemy submarines or aircraft.

This is where the role of cybersecurity becomes paramount. In an era where data and communications drive operational success, ensuring the integrity, availability, and confidentiality of these digital assets is vital. Merely defending against known threats is not adequate. Instead, teams must work to build a resilient infrastructure that can withstand, adapt, and overcome attacks from sophisticated adversaries. Just as fortified bunkers and anti-aircraft batteries protected essential resources during WWII, advanced cybersecurity countermeasures must be baked into the JADC2 defense enterprise to safeguard modern operations.

Moreover, as the JADC2 framework expands to include coalition partners, evolving into CJADC2 capabilities, the complexities and the importance of cybersecurity grows exponentially. With more allies on the digital grid, ensuring every node is trusted and secure becomes imperative.

The symbiotic relationship between innovation and security underlines the military’s journey from Beans, Bullets, and Black Oil to Bytes, Boolean, and Backhaul. A constant evolution, where the thrill of new capabilities is balanced by the caution of defense and resilience.

Telos: Bridging the Gap between Vision and Reality for JADC2

In the ambitious journey towards realizing JADC2’s potential, partnership with industry stalwarts is not just beneficial – it’s indispensable. Telos is a global leader in cybersecurity and defense solutions and a valuable partner in making JADC2 a reality. Telos has a storied history with the Department of Defense, providing secure network solutions that have withstood the test of time in safeguarding our national defense enterprise. Our legacy is intertwined with defense advancements, consistently adapting to the evolving landscape of threats and opportunities. As JADC2 aims to integrate commercial innovations for a decisive combat advantage, Telos stands as a beacon of experience and expertise.

Our vast portfolio, ranging from advanced cybersecurity applications to robust network solutions, enables us to uniquely address the myriad of JADC2 requirements. Beyond mere technological integration, Telos understands the nuance and intricacies of military operations, ensuring that solutions are not only fit for purpose but enhance the overall mission effectiveness of our warfighters.

Telos has long been at the forefront of network security, ensuring that as our defense forces move towards a future characterized by Bytes, Boolean, and Backhaul, they do so with the assurance of reliability and security. As JADC2 seeks to incorporate coalition partners into its architecture, creating CJADC2 capabilities, the role of industry partners like Telos – with our deep-rooted experience in international defense collaborations – becomes even more pivotal.

As our nation looks to retool around JADC2, Telos is a trusted partner ensuring that every step taken is firm, secure, and future-proof.

The All-Domain Evolution

In the Pacific during World War II, the theatre of operations presented a massive but ultimately regional, single-domain problem set. Ensuring the logistics of beans, bullets, and black oil was a spatial and material challenge confined to vast oceanic expanses and isolated islands. This was the regional hurdle of its time, demanding inventive strategies and collaboration.

Today, the challenges of modern warfare have evolved exponentially. JADC2 confronts a ubiquitous and all-encompassing all-domain problem set. No longer limited by regional confines or a singular domain, achieving a sustained advantage demands the seamless integration of land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace capabilities. It’s about ensuring the constant flow of data (bytes) to enable advanced algorithms (Boolean logic) across every available transport medium (backhaul) to create decision superiority.

While history can inform our current challenges, establishing key partnerships that enable the JADC2 concept will ultimately define success. Therefore, our aphorisms may too need to evolve to more accurately reflect the current paradigm. Where once we said, “Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics,” we now must assert, “Amateurs talk tactics and logistics, but professionals build networks.”

Bill Nystrom
Bill Nystrom
Chief Technology Officer
Bill Nystrom is Chief Technology Officer at Telos Corporation.
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