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Spectrum convergence remains a tough nut

Mar. 11, 2014
 
Paige Atkins is Vice President for Cyber and IT Research at the Virginia Tech Applied Research Corp., and former Director for Strategic Planning and Information at DISA. (Michael T. Kiernan)

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I have had the opportunity to speak to two Association of Old Crows (AOC) events several years apart on the same topic – Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) Convergence – and its criticality to achieving effects. During the first AOC event, in 2009, the concept of Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations (JEMSO) was just gaining real traction, we were continuing to fight the battles on the Hill regarding reallocation and sharing of government spectrum, and the SECDEF had just directed STRATCOM to stand up this new Sub-Unified Command called USCYBERCOM. Everyone from policy makers to operators were trying to figure out what it all means, the implications, and how we can effectively operate in this EMS in the future.

Since that time we have made progress, to include the publication of the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Management Operations Doctrine. However we still struggle. EMS transcends all physical domains and the information environment (i.e. cyber) and extends beyond traditional borders or boundaries, so we still wrestle with how to effectively operate in this very complex and unpredictable environment – especially across cyber, EMS, and EW.

One of our key challenges is defining what we mean by convergence – and to a large extent what we mean by cyber. When you look up the word “convergence” in the dictionary, you find it is not about being singular, but being a unified whole. So when I talk about the convergence across cyber, EMS and EW, it is about thinking and acting as a unified whole – with the focus of achieving (operational) effects.

The EMS is a physics-based maneuver space essential to control the operational environment during all military operations. Information and data exchange between platforms and capabilities will at some point rely on the EMS for transport. This maneuver space is constrained by both military and civil uses as well as adversary attempts to deny the use of the EMS, creating a congested and contested environment. This constrains freedom of maneuver literally across all operational domains.

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When you talk about the methods for managing EMS, performing EW or executing cyberwarfare, there is a definite intersection of people, processes and technologies (TTPs, etc) that we must understand and leverage together to effectively operate, defend, exploit and attack. You can slice and dice this “problem” many different ways, but the bottom line is that they are still distinct elements, but must be brought together as a unified whole.

We have made progress, but we must continue to mature and innovate our technology, TTPs, processes and tools to maintain the advantage. We must continue to improve our capabilities to understand our environments, to include securely sharing information and increasing collaboration across traditionally siloed communities to ensure we have better situational awareness – real-time – and can effectively operate across these interdependent elements. Ultimately our goal is to accelerate the warfighters’ ability to effectively and efficiently manage and control the electromagnetic battlespace to achieve the desired effects, and we must be able to do that in both a congested and contested environment.

Spectrum has no boundaries – it does not respect organizational structures (2/3/6), community boundaries, cultural barriers or geographic borders. We must understand how to better manage and control the electromagnetic battlespace and treat spectrum as a joint and critical resource, and we need to continue to focus on collaborative efforts to address data, tools, TTPs, M&S and other areas to enable spectrum operations holistically.

However we must then take the next step to better understand the interdependent nature and operational advantages of integrated JEMSO and cyber operations in the larger context, further breaking down what I will call the artificial boundaries between the 2/3/6 communities. And when we get there, our operating environments will once again change in an unpredictable way. We will need to continue to adapt – but as a unified whole.

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