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Pentagon's Electronic Warfare Strategy Incomplete, GAO Says

Government Accountability Office report finds DOD has not established clear lines of responsibility in electronic warfare and cyberspace operations.

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The Department of Defense's readiness for electronic warfare still needs improvement, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

Citing an "increasing quality and availability of electronic warfare capabilities" by other governments and "non-state actors," the GAO recommended a series of steps to be taken by the Pentagon, including more clearly defining roles and responsibilities for electronic warfare management.

The GAO defines electronic warfare as "any military action involving the use of electromagnetic and directed energy to control the electromagnetic spectrum or to attack the enemy." The electromagnetic spectrum includes radio, microwave, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays. The DOD has invested billions of dollars in weapons and communications systems that rely on access to the electromagnetic spectrum.

[ Read about the DOD's mobile device strategy. See Pentagon Outlines Mobile Device Plan. ]

The GAO report follows the November 2011 release of DOD's annual report to Congress on its electronic warfare strategy. Last December, the DOD made the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Control Center (JEMSCC), which operates under the umbrella of U.S. Strategic Command, its focal point for electronic warfare operations. But GAO determined that there is no comprehensive implementation plan to define the center's objectives and major tasks.

"DOD has taken some steps to address a critical leadership gap identified in 2009, but it has not established a department-wide governance framework for planning, directing, and controlling electronic warfare activities," said the GAO.

The Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy each acquire their own airborne electronic attack systems, and GAO observed that opportunities may exist to consolidate some of those acquisition efforts. "With the prospect of slowly-growing or flat defense budgets for years to come, the department must get better returns on its weapon system investments and find ways to deliver more capability to the warfighter for less than it has in the past," the report said.

GAO called attention to the relationship between electronic warfare and cyberspace operations, including the use of cyberspace capabilities to achieve military objectives, such as attacking or exploiting enemy computer networks. Because cyberspace capabilities require ways to communicate with networks, they must be able to make use of the electromagnetic spectrum. "Electronic warfare and cyberspace operations are complementary and have potentially synergistic effects," the report stated.

GAO made recommendations for improving DOD's management of electronic warfare operations and capabilities. They include directing the Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (AT&L) and other officials to publish performance measures to help guide strategy implementation, to identify required resources, and to articulate the roles and responsibilities of the people involved. The GAO also recommended that the objectives and major tasks of the JEMSCC be better-defined.

The Office of Management and Budget demands that federal agencies tap into a more efficient IT delivery model. The new Shared Services Mandate issue of InformationWeek Government explains how they're doing it. Also in this issue: Uncle Sam should develop an IT savings dashboard that shows the returns on its multibillion-dollar IT investment. (Free registration required.)

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User Rank: Ninja
7/10/2012 | 3:41:36 PM
re: Pentagon's Electronic Warfare Strategy Incomplete, GAO Says
If the Accountability office is telling you that you have gaps in your security measures I would listen. If the DOD does not currently test performance, I am curious how they know how to mark progress or if the changes they make are beneficial. It also seems that the DOD needs to establish a center wide protocol for dealing with electronic warfare. The increase in technological advances and the budget not increasing to meet those needs will create another weakness with their security. Unfortunately to keep up with the bad guys it costs a lot of money!
Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor
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