The Department of Defense has recently announced that a new electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) strategy—the EMS Superiority Strategy—will be released this summer. This comes following discussions in the fall and winter of 2019 regarding the United States’ EMS vulnerabilities.
In October of 2019, Army, Navy, and Air Force representatives met to discuss the potential establishment of a separate warfare domain specifically for EMS. Because EMS already applies to every domain, however, officials felt that separating it would be futile. Despite this, the DoD firmly believes that strengthening the United States’ EMS strategies and technologies is imperative. According to Major General Lance Landrum, the U.S. is challenged in the electromagnetic spectrum—and this is because we have become wholly dependent on it. Major General Landrum told reporters on December 18th that “Our dependence on the electromagnetic spectrum, the way our systems depend on it ... our competitors see that dependency, and so they see that dependency as a possible vulnerability.”
It is a vulnerability. Our military relies on radar, radio signals, and satellites to communicate with other forces and perform a wide range of operations. Russia, whose electromagnetic warfare (EW) strategies notably include attacking the U.S. military’s C4ISR networks, currently dominates ground-based EW. In 2017, Russia used EW tactics to shut down Ukrainian FM radio and cellular networks; jam signals; bring down 100 drones; and target artillery strikes. Russia has also used fake text messages to trick soldiers’ families into calling them, thus leading Russians to soldiers’ locations. The United States’ dependence on EMS for electronic communication, navigation, and other operations makes it vulnerable to Russian—and Chinese—EW tactics. In 2018, Russia disabled U.S. EC-130s and jammed GPS signals. Russian EW companies are capable of jamming signals, geo-locating enemy signals, and disrupting equipment, including drones.
While creating a separate warfare domain for EMS is unreasonable, the DoD Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations Cross Functional Team, which has been tasked with strengthening our EMS strategies and technologies, can focus on making the U.S. less vulnerable to EW. By training officers to be less reliant on EMS and to reduce their electronic footprints, the DoD can reduce the U.S.’s vulnerabilities. But avoiding EMS is not the solution. What the DoD must—and will—do is design new EMS technologies that bolster our EW tactics.
The DoD recently announced that each of its 31 armor and infantry brigades will possess new EW platoons equipped for attacks in coming years. One goal the DoD EMS Operations Cross Functional Team has illuminated is the fusion of two existing strategies: the DoD’s 2013 EMS strategy (developed by the CIO) and the DoD’s EW strategy. Fusing these two strategies will create the EMS Superiority Strategy. In addition to designing new technologies and implementing new strategies, other objectives include:
A yearlong workforce analysis study to identify a military and civilian EMS workforce and develop strategies to train and educate officers
Electromagnetic battle management, which will aid commanders in making better decisions.
Sources: https://defensesystems.com/articles/2019/12/23/dod-spectrum-warfare-williams.aspx, https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/russia-winning-electronic-warfare-fight-against-ukraine-united-states-ncna1091101