Successful military operations depend upon freedom of action in the warfighting domains of air, space, ground, sea, and cyberspace. Today, effective command and control and situational awareness depend upon radio communications and sensors. Domination of the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) enables joint force commanders to gain tactical, operational, and strategic advantage over a potential adversary. EMS is broken down into frequency bands defined by certain physical characteristics, which include radio waves, microwaves, millimeter waves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet radiation, x-rays, and gamma rays.
In this construct, the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) empowers space, allowing it to supply key enablers for the domains of air, land, and sea, in turn facilitating the ability to influence or control the human domain. Hypothetically, if an opponent attacks or manipulates the use of radio frequencies within the EMS, through cyber or other means, he could deny access to vital satellites that we rely on for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; communications; early warning; and navigation. The consequences would severely affect a joint force air component commander’s planning, decision, and execution cycle and could render operations in the air, on land, and at sea ineffective.
In Oct 2020, the Department of Defense announced the release of the DOD Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority Strategy. It recognized, “The Freedom of action in the electromagnetic spectrum, at the time, place, and parameters of our choosing, is a required precursor to the successful conduct of operations in all domains.” This 2020 Strategy builds upon the successes of and supersedes both the DoD’s 2013 EMS Strategy and 2017 EW Strategy.
DoD’s growing requirements to gather, analyze, and share information rapidly; to control an increasing number of automated Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets; to command geographically dispersed and mobile forces to gain access into denied areas; and to “train as we fight” requires that DoD maintain sufficient spectrum access,” said DOD’s Electromagnetic Spectrum Strategy unveiled in February 2014.
The strategy acknowledged that adversaries like Russia have developed a range of offensive and defensive Airborne, UAV and ground based electronic warfare systems, deployed them in it’s conflicts and also has developed tactics to employ them effectively in warfare. Adversaries are aggressively developing and fielding electronic attack (EA) and cyberspace technologies that significantly reduce the ability of DoD to access the spectrum and conduct military operations. This requires development, fielding, and integration of complex EA, electronic support (ES), and electronic protection (EP) technologies to attack adversary’s command, control, communications, and computers; ISR; improvised explosive devices (IEDS); and area denial weapon systems, all of which require access to spectrum.
Recognizing U.S. reliance on the EMS, our adversaries have spent 30 years studying, investing, and implementing policies, capabilities, and procedures with the single focus of gaining military advantage over U.S. forces. These adversaries are developing and fielding advanced technology that targets U.S. capabilities across the EMS. In order to maintain warfighting superiority, DoD must look to revolutionary, leap-ahead technologies and capabilities to be able to compete against a range of adversaries throughout the competition continuum.
The new 2020 startegy also took note of wireless communications 5g & 6G what DOD considers as new arms race. “The rise of mobile systems and digital technology across the globe has placed enormous strain on the available spectrum for DOD’s command, control, and communication needs. This strategy will help set the conditions needed to ensure our warfighters have freedom of action within the electromagnetic spectrum to successfully conduct operations and training in congested, contested and constrained multi-domain environments across the globe,” said Hon. Dana Deasy, DOD chief information officer.
In modern warfare, EMS superiority is a leading indicator and fundamental component of achieving superiority in air, land, sea, space, or
cyberspace. EMSO provides capability, capacity, and potentially persistent access to targets at the speed of light, where many other capabilities require extended time, resources, and movement of forces to employ. As U.S. forces are organized around domains, the EMS not only provides the critical connective tissue that enables all-domain operations, but represents a natural seam and critical vulnerability across joint force operations. This Strategy aims to mitigate vulnerability by creating the conditions to ensure EMS superiority. As such, operations in the EMS require prioritization, resourcing, and governance as an enterprise.
The purpose of the new strategy is to align DOD electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) activities with the objectives of the 2017 National Security Strategy, the 2018 National Defense Strategy, and national economic and technology policy goals. The traditional functions of Electromagnetic Spectrum Management (EMSM) and Electromagnetic Warfare (EW)—integrated as Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations (EMSO)—are addressed within the document’s strategic goals. The modern EMOE is increasingly congested, contested, and constrained (henceforth referred to as complex). This Strategy addresses EMOE complexity by advancing EMS sharing and maneuver to ensure
continued spectrum access, as emphasized in the NSS and the 2018 Presidential Memorandum on Developing a Sustainable Spectrum Strategy for America’s Future.
The Department recognizes the EMS as a critical battlespace in its own right, where DoD must conduct fires, maneuver, and communicate to achieve dominance in the presence of ever-increasing military and civilian use. EMS maneuver is the movement in three-dimensional positioning, time, and EMS operating parameters (e.g., frequency, power, modulation) to gain an advantage over the enemy. An EMS
maneuver mindset views all actions in the EMS as a fundamental part of the commander’s scheme of maneuver and is focused on creating advantage over the enemy. Inclusive within EMS maneuver is the ability to coordinate EMS fires through EMS command and control methods and means. By developing innovative asymmetric EMS capabilities, DoD can protect expensive friendly capabilities from disruption or attrition, while simultaneously denying or degrading the effectiveness of adversaries’ high-priced systems.
“This Strategy addresses how DOD will: develop superior EMS capabilities; evolve to an agile, fully integrated EMS infrastructure; pursue total force EMS readiness; secure enduring partnerships for EMS advantage; and establish effective EMS governance to support strategic and operational objectives. Investment in these areas will speed decision-quality information to the warfighter, establish effective electromagnetic battle management, enable EMS sharing with commercial partners, advance EMS warfighting capabilities, and ensure our forces maintain EMS superiority,” Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper, wrote in the forward of the document.
The strategy attests to the need for freedom of action in the electromagnetic spectrum, at the time, place, and parameters of DOD’s choosing as a required precursor to the successful conduct of operations in all domains. “The Department is dedicated to a unified, holistic electromagnetic spectrum operations (EMSO) approach which ensures our Freedom of Action in the EMS at the time and place of our choosing,” said, Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “We cannot expect military success in any domain if we fail to take bold action to ensure that the United States and its Allies have freedom to act in the spectrum. Implementing the EMS Superiority Strategy enables us to take that bold action so we are able to dominate the spectrum in all domains and, if challenged, win against our enemies.”
The Strategy builds upon existing joint and Service doctrine and operational concepts that incorporate the full range of military activities in the EMS. The modern electromagnetic operational environment (EMOE) is increasingly complex and is congested, contested, and constrained. This Strategy addresses the complexity by advancing EMS sharing and maneuver to ensure continued spectrum access, as emphasized in the NSS and the 2018 Presidential Memorandum on Developing a Sustainable Spectrum Strategy for America’s Future. The Strategy supports the full range of activities DOD must conduct in the EMS across the competition continuum. It recognizes that the same technology used to enable the maneuverability required in the highly contested near-peer environments can also be used to enhance access in highly regulated peacetime environments. It incorporates an EMS enterprise focus on superiority in congested and contested EMOEs of conflict as well as the need to test, train, and operate in congested and constrained peacetime EMOEs.
The strategy highlights the tremendous advantage afforded to the competitor that gains and maintains EMS superiority across the competition continuum and that “by developing innovative asymmetric EMS capabilities, DOD can protect expensive friendly capabilities from disruption or attrition, while simultaneously denying or degrading the effectiveness of adversaries’ high-priced systems.”
DOD will focus on five interdependent goals: develop superior EMS capabilities; evolve to an agile, and fully integrated, EMS infrastructure; pursue total force readiness in the EMS; secure enduring partnerships for EMS advantage; and establish effective EMS governance. “The Department’s evolution in the EMS is necessary for the U.S. military’s ability to effectively sense, command, control, communicate, test, train, protect, and project force,” said the Hon. Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment. “Modernizing to maintain competitive advantage over near-peer adversaries will enable DOD to assert EMS superiority and mitigate risks to U.S. national and economic security.”