Pentagon gives weight to electronic warfare

The Defense Department has refined its plan for electronic warfare as “a cross-cutting capability” of joint operations in which DOD components will share tactics, techniques and technologies.

A recently released directive from Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox updates DOD’s existing electronic warfare policy, setting out goals for the program and assigning responsibilities for tasks such as acquisition, development, validation and oversight.

Among the goals of the policy is the integration of electronic warfare, or EW, into the full range of military operations, including conventional, space and cyberspace operations, as well as irregular and navigation warfare. The policy also calls for incorporating EW into joint exercises and training, along with developing and procuring EW systems.

Electronic warfare essentially involves control of the electromagnetic spectrum used by satellites, radar, radios, drones and any mobile or wireless device. The idea is to protect U.S. force’s use of the spectrum while being able to disrupt its use by adversaries.

EW’s role has been steadily increasing in importance, particularly as U.S. forces shift their focus from Afghanistan and Iraq, where they had fairly free use of the spectrum, to the more contested Asia-Pacific Region. North Korea, for example, has several times attempted to jam South Korea's GPS signals. China also has invested in electronic warfare technologies, and reportedly used stolen U.S. military secrets to develop the ability to jam the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System. 

The update to DOD’s policy comes in the wake of a July 2012 report from the Government Accountability Office that said DOD needed to more clearly define its management and oversight of EW efforts.

Efforts to improve EW capabilities have taken various forms within the military services, from the Navy’s research into shipboard EW technologies  to the Army’s search for anti-drone technologies.

And research efforts will only continue. In testimony last month before the House Armed Services Committee, Alan Shaffer, acting assistant secretary of Defense for research and engineering, said that DOD would spend about $500 million — or 5 percent of its $11.5 billion requested science and technology budget for 2015 — on EW systems.


About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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