Cyber Defense

Bill introduced to address capability gaps in EW

Congressional leaders are taking notice of the warning signs regarding the electromagnetic spectrum, electronic warfare and how other nations have been closing the gap with the United States. Lawmakers who hold the purse strings and thus influence military decision-making have now taken steps to allocate more resources toward the problem.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have introduced legislation, Senate bill 2486, aimed at cutting “acquisition red tape” and providing funding flexibility for additional EW technology.  “Countries like Russia, China and Iran, are closing the gap on the U.S. military's electronic warfare capabilities, leaving our servicemen and women vulnerable. This bill will get lifesaving electronic warfare technologies to the warfighter more quickly,” a press release from Kirk’s office announcing the bill said. 

The bill won praise from the Association of Old Crows, an international interest group that promotes exchange of ideas and information concerning electromagnetic spectrum operations and electronic warfare. “S. 2486 represents an important step in advancing EW and electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) warfare to the forefront of defense reform,” a release from the organization said.

“The bill represents a tremendous opportunity for military and defense industry leaders and our community — the scientists, engineers, managers, operators, educators, and military personnel — to advance innovative electronic warfare systems and capabilities that are a prerequisite for successful military operations in the twenty-first century,” said David A. Hime, president of the association.  “It is imperative that we find new ways to work together to accelerate development of EW systems and technologies and strengthen leadership at every level in DOD and our military services.”

Military officials have long been warning of the capability gap the U.S. possesses compared to its adversaries in this space.  “We can’t shut them down one-tenth to the degree they can us. We are very unprotected from their attacks on our network,” Mackenzie Eaglen, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal, quoting the former commander of the Army’s electronic-warfare division.

“Russians train, maintain and fight in a contested EMS,” Col. Jeffrey Church, Army EW division chief, told members of Congress during a recent briefing. “They demonstrate that to us in places like Ukraine where they integrate EW into their operations before, during and after their mission.” 

The United States has taken its eye off this particular discipline over the last 14 years while engaged in a counterterrorism fight against much less capable adversaries. As the U.S. is posturing to face multiple adversaries and initiating new programs such as the Third Offset Strategy,  electromagnetic spectrum operations will play a much larger role. 

DOD recently has stepped up the search for EW-related tools from industry to help close gaps by issuing several solicitations.  

Officials also gathered recently at the Strategic Command headquarters to hold a three-day information session to examine requirements to enable joint electromagnetic spectrum operations planning, as well as recommend and catalog user requirements for the development of future Electromagnetic Battle Management operations.

Kirk has been focused on this issue for some time, preparing for the formation of an electronic warfare caucus on Capitol Hill. Hill staffers recently visited the Army’s Communication Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center for insight into the Army’s EW efforts

“It is critical that the United States military dominates the offensive and defensive ends of electronic warfare,” Kirk said. “This bill will give DoD and industry leaders the tools to quickly develop critical electronic warfare technology for the warfighter, the importance of which I have seen firsthand as an Intelligence Officer with the Navy Reserve in Kosovo.”

“Red tape is standing in the way of our military having access to the technology it needs to lead in today’s complex and ever-evolving landscape,” Gillibrand said. “This legislation will help ensure our service men and women are less vulnerable to national security threats and have access to the most up-to-date electronic warfare technology available.”

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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