WASHINGTON — Two senators have introduced new bipartisan legislation aimed at boosting the Pentagon’s electronic warfare efforts.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is meant to speed up the acquisition cycle for electronic warfare programs, which generally have to do with using electromagnetic energy to jam, spoof or eavesdrop on enemy signals.
“It is critical that the United States military dominates the offensive and defensive ends of electronic warfare,” Kirk, a former Navy Reserve intelligence officer, said in a statement. “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.”
The bill, called the Electronic Warfare Enhancement Act, comes a year after the Pentagon announced a group focused on innovations and strategies in electronic warfare across the entire Defense Department, called the Electronic Warfare Executive Committee. The bill would require the committee to supply Congress with a strategic plan for enhancing its electronic warfare capabilities, through cross-service cooperation, streamlining acquisitions, and improving training and advancing offensive capabilities.
The bill’s text warns of a “deficiency in electronic warfare that if left unfilled is likely to result in critical mission failure, the loss of life, property destruction, or economic effects.”
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the Army's most senior commander in Europe, said last March that Russian-backed forces used jammers to interfere with drones intended to monitor compliance of a cease-fire agreement, and that Ukraine's ground defense systems are being jammed, creating what was essentially a no-fly zone. "The quality and sophistication of their electronic warfare is eye watering," Hodges said at the time.
According to Kirk, it can take a decade to field electronic warfare technology, and by then it is outdated. The bill would provide acquisition program managers authority to waive certain rules and regulations, in line with the department's Rapid Acquisition Authority Program.
Kirk touted the legislation Feb. 5 on a visit to Northrop Grumman’s facility in Rolling Meadows, Ill., home to the company’s Land & Avionics C4ISR division. The facility, which employs more than 2,100 people, also oversees the company’s electronic warfare work.
“This bill cuts through the red tape at the Department of Defense so Northrop Grumman can advance technology for the warfighter and equip our US military faster,” Kirk said in a statement.
Northrop announced in January that it won a $91.7 million engineering, manufacturing and development contract from the Navy to further mature system designs for the AN/SLQ-32(V)7 electronic warfare system. The upgrades are meant to add new technologies and capabilities for early detection, signal analysis, threat warning and protection from anti-ship missiles..