WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense released its much anticipated plan to implement its electromagnetic spectrum operations superiority strategy, promising departmentwide coordination to buy needed technologies and align operations.
Officials shared a few details about the classified plan, including that a high-level oversight team has established procedures to integrate joint spectrum operations. In the fall, EMS strategy oversight responsibilities will transfer to the DoD chief information officer for enterprisewide approach.
Members of Congress and outside experts have long been waiting for the implementation plan noting the strategy lacks teeth without a robust plan to realize its goals. Officials initially expected to release the plan around March, but Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin didn’t end up signing it on July 15.
The EMS strategy and accompanying implementation plan will be a critical component for success of the DoD’s emerging Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept, which seeks to more seamlessly connect sensor information to shooters to allow for faster decision-making. That vision for how to win future conflicts against advanced adversaries relies on the ability to control the spectrum. Without control, adversary disruptions could prevent friendly forces from communicating, accessing location data or seeing incoming threats typically detected by radars.
Ahead of CIO assuming oversight, a team lead by the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff established processes and procedures to develop, integrate and enhance joint electromagnetic spectrum operations across all domains. That oversight group is working within the EMSO Cross Functional Team.
“The CFT handoff of oversight of the electromagnetic spectrum superiority strategy I-plan to the DoD CIO early this fall establishes the enterprise approach and focus needed to maintain EMS superiority,” Vernita Harris, director of the spectrum policy and programs directorate within the DoD CIO office, told reporters.
The plan will establish a new entity beneath Strategic Command called the Joint EMSO Center, or JEC. This two-star organization will have expanded authorities to evaluate, assess and certify joint electromagnetic spectrum operations readiness and identify deficiencies in capabilities across the joint force.
“What we’re really doing here is answering the question are we ready and able to operate in a complex electromagnetic operating environment,” said Brig. Gen. AnnMarie Anthony, deputy director for operations for joint electromagnetic spectrum operations.
The implementation plan created a framework to drive investment prioritization within the EMS by establishing capability planning guidance.
“To date, the department has lacked a comprehensive portfolio-based approach to prioritize, synchronize and integrate EMSO capability investments,” said Brig. Gen. Darrin Leleux, deputy director of the EMSO CFT.
While the services set their own budgets, officials said they are in sync, and there are mechanisms in place for greater alignment in procurement of new capabilities that integrate and close gaps in contract to adversary capabilities.
The capability development plan is one way officials hope to develop a prioritization scheme between components and services.
The other is the new JEC, which will provide operational risk assessments.
“We’re going to be identifying capability gaps and requirements through a rigorous process,” Anthony said.
She added those assessments will feed into existing DoD channels, such as the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment and the Joint Requirements Oversight Council.
“The first 90 days, each of the components will be evaluating those tasks, putting together plans to accomplish them and developing any resources requirements that are needed for those tasks,” Leleux said of the plan.
Top members of Congress have expressed their exasperation with the department regarding its perceived lethargy on electromagnetic spectrum modernization and its delayed delivery of the implementation plan.
“We have had to force this on the services and the Joint Staff … if it wasn’t for Congress, none of this would be done,” Rep. Don Bacon, R-Nebraska, a former one-star Air Force electronic warfare officer, said in May. “My take way here is Congress cannot take our foot off the gas on this.”
Some DoD officials have even agreed with this sentiment.
“What happens when the military … [isn’t] moving nearly fast enough,” Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the senior designated official overseeing the implementation of the strategy, said in January. “Our friends across the river in the big white dome, they tend to get involved as they should … They got involved and started directing activity, to reinvigorate electromagnetic spectrum operations and electronic warfare into the joint force.”
The House subcommittee responsible for overseeing electromagnetic spectrum matters recently passed its mark for the annual defense policy bill, requiring DoD to designate a sole official responsible for implementing electromagnetic spectrum superiority strategy.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.