The Army is working toward developing a departmentwide electronic warfare strategy, which remains in flux at the draft stage.
"We have been working with our counterparts across the department, [Army Training and Doctrine Command] and the acquisition community, to assess holistically and from a DOTMLPF perspective the department's approach to EW and the application of that going forward," the new chief of staff to the Army's cyber directorate, Col. Sean Kennan, said during the C4ISRNET Conference in early May.
The perspective Kennan was referring to stands for doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, facilities and policy.
EW is beginning to play a greater role within the Army as Russian forces are alleged to have exercised advanced capabilities against U.S. partners in Europe. Kennan acknowledged, however, that the Army has not had a strategy for EW for quite some time.
The service recently released an updated field manual for cyber and electromagnetic activitythat governs such operations, providing "tactics and procedures for the coordination and integration of Army cyberspace and electronic warfare operations to support unified land operations and joint operations."
"We currently don’t have EW formations, we probably don’t have the right mix of EW soldiers in our bridge combat teams, and so we are taking a very close look at this across the spectrum from a man, train and equip, and operational employment relative to EW," Kennan said.
The Army is looking to create a new career field and operational detachment specifically for electromagnetic operations.
"Effective Oct. 1, 2018, our electronic warfare force, which we call our 29-series career field, will now become 17s, meaning that is the career field that is the baseline of cyber," Maj. Gen. Patricia Frost, who heads the cyber directorate, saidlast December. "We will start training the 29 series this year with a foundation in cyber, signals intelligence and electronic warfare. And then we’ll talk about kind of where the Army’s going with reorganization and operational capability."
The new operational detachment, Frost said, is targeted to come online within the next year.
Others have also recognized how the Army took its eyes off operations in the electromagnetic spectrum during the counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"For a while, the Army kind of got away from electromagnetic spectrum defense, attack, those kinds of activities," Army Forces Command's Deputy Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Todd Isaacson said.
"We assume that we had [superiority] and therefore we took actions inside the Army to cut our field artillery, to do away with EW inside the Army as a capability, and now we’re finding that those capabilities did not go away on our threat — enemy, adversaries — at the near-peer level," saidMaj. Gen. Bo Dyess, acting director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center at TRADOC. "We’ve just been focusing on a different thing the last 15 years, and appropriately so."
Isaacson said the Army is now putting cyber and electromagnetic spectrum operations together.
During the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, U.S. forces used EW to jam low-tech devices that were used to detonate deadly improvised explosive devices.
If the spectrum is not managed properly, friendly systems can interfere with each other and backfire, jamming friendly communications. Despite the success of these EW IED countermeasures, they prevented friendly forces from communicating because they jammed everything as opposed to targeting a specific frequency within the spectrum.
And so the Department of Defense finalized a departmentwide EW strategy. "The base strategy document is very deliberately an unclassified document … and the reason for that is it allows us to share it broadly on the industry side, with our partners, with our allies, and say: 'This, no kidding, (is) where we are going with our investments into electronic warfare,' " saidWilliam Conley, deputy director of EW within the Pentagon’s office of acquisition, technology and logistics during a December conference.
The document, however, is not available to the public, but rather for official use only. According to documents provided to C4ISRNET, the plan’s vision describes agile, adaptive and integrated EW to offensively achieve electromagnetic spectrum, or EMS, superiority across the range of military operations, and it includes four-fold goals:
- Organize the EW enterprise to ensure EMS superiority.
- Train and educate for 21st century EW and EMS operations.
- Equip the force with agile, adaptive and integrated EW capabilities.
- Bolster partnerships with industry, academia, and interagency and allied partners.
Given the still nascent stage of the Army’s EW strategy, it's unclear how much will be derived from the DoD’s strategy. However, the Army’s vice chief of staff and the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology were on the EW Executive Committee that worked to generate the DoD’s final strategy.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.