Research Reports

Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS)

September 2022

AUTHORS: Mo Mansouri, Michael McGrath, Donald Schlomer,
Dinesh Verma, and Philip S. Antón

JCIDS is the process by which the military develops and validates capability requirements for joint (more than one Service) use and interoperability. Service-level sponsors submit their capability requirements, which may then be assessed for their impact on joint operations and be developed into interoperable or joint solutions. The Service specific solutions can take the form of a materiel solution, an information system, policy changes, training, or doctrinal changes.

Interoperability across the services is a critical attribute within the United States military. Interoperability failures can pose a strategic weakness for warfighters and result in embarrassing episodes with political implications on the world stage. For example, the case of the Second Battle of Fallujah, or Operation Al Fajr (November – December 2004), highlights the danger of interoperability breakdown. During this episode, Army and Marine forces were working together to destroy enemy targets in the city. However, the two forces struggled to communicate with each other due to incompatible communication technologies: Army used radios while the Marines primarily used internet chat like Microsoft Chat (Matthews, 2006). Additionally, the two forces had different operating procedures when it came to communication: the Marines switched frequencies and codes according to a predetermined schedule while the Army resisted, thus further complicating communication efforts (Matthews, 2006). These interoperability weaknesses caused operational friction but could very well have caused catastrophe. As the DoD continues to rely on joint operations, interoperability is a primary consideration.

These delays have elicited reactions from Congress, Joint Staff, and service branches and resulted in the development of alternative pathways specifically tailored to bypass the mainstream JCIDS process:

  • At the joint level, a software systems path was introduced to JCIDS to provide expedited requirements validation for software-based capabilities.
  • Additionally, there is a Joint Urgent Operational Needs path for joint projects that, when given the right authorization, can allow sponsors to skip certain reviews present in the deliberate process.
  • DoD Instruction (DoDI) 5000.80 sets policy on the use of the Middle Tier Acquisition (MTA) to “fill a gap in the [defense acquisition system] for those capabilities that have a level of maturity to allow them to be rapidly prototyped within an acquisition program or fielded, within 5 years of MTA program start” (DoD, 2019). The DoDI 5000.80 denotes the bypassing of the JCIDS process to support the ability to acquire current technology solutions for an existing in-scope validated requirement.

Still, it is important that the warfighters maintain joint interoperability. Avoidance of the JCIDS process may pose a risk to that objective. Yet, latency is also a critical threat to the warfighter. The delicate balance between jointness and speed must be maintained in a manner that best equips the warfighter for the abundance and complexity of global threats.