DB - Digital Battlespace

EW 2011: Call goes out for unified EW command

27th May 2011 - 09:38 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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The US has been urged to set up a unified EW command and to redefine the electromagnetic spectrum as a domain that needs to be preserved, if it is to avoid an ‘electromagnetic Pearl Harbour’.

Speaking at the Electronic Warfare 2011 conference, Laurie Buckhout, president-elect of the Association of Old Crows, said EW assets across the Department of Defense needed to be brought under an umbrella command, in much the same way as US Cyber Command that was established in 2009.

‘I just left four years in the Pentagon and what it comes down to in terms of building warfighting capabilities is money and you don’t get money unless you have a clear advocate – one person to stand up for your capability,’ Buckhout told the conference in Berlin on 26 May.

Buckhout pointed out that in terms of EW developments, US forces had made some significant progress in recent years.

In the last three years the US Army has established 3,700 officer, warrant officer and enlisted billets devoted to EW and in many areas the major services had collaborated for the first time on EW efforts. The USMC, meanwhile, is moving ahead with its Collaborative Online Reconnaissance Provider/Operationally Responsive Attack Link (CORPORAL) project, a network-enabled, UAS-based, electronic attack capability.

However, the standing up of Cyber Command, which falls under the remit of US Strategic Command, had ‘blurred’ the distinction between EW and cyber threats and responses.

‘I am a cyber-geek myself, I have a clear appreciation and understanding of cyber warfare and cyber operations but is it or is it not electronic warfare? You need to look at what is the genesis of what. And you need to look at the clarity that is currently in electronic warfare – because blurred responsibilities and blurred requirements will not lead to dollars.’

She said proponents of a joint cyber command had used knowledge of the threat to have cyberspace declared as a domain that had to be contested, which carried with it some inherent leadership and organisation ramifications.

‘When EMS is treated like a separate domain then we will really be part of the joint battlespace, or the joint coalition. But we really aren’t at this time. For example one of the big problems we still have in counter IED operations is deconflicting them – and it is very difficult to deconflict everything in the electromagnetic spectrum. It needs to be someone’s fulltime job.’

Another consideration was providing commanders some awareness of how effective the EW assets under their command had been during an operation.

Buckhout said it was very hard to prove a negative; for example, was a jammer effective or was the enemy just not there?

‘It is very hard to prove a negative. And a lot of this stuff is in a security realm where you can’t talk about it, you can’t trumpet your success when you do find out about it. Telling our success stories is very important to do - we tend to be the unsung heroes but when we can document it, it is very important to do.’

She said regretfully it might take an ‘electromagnetic spectrum Pearl Harbour’ for a champion of a unified EW command to push for the concept within the DoD.

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