I appreciated ADM Greenert’s blog on “Wireless Cyberwar, The EM Spectrum, And the Changing Navy“, and before that, his December 2012 Proceedings article entitled, “Imminent Domain“. He highlighted critical enabling areas of warfare that we can no longer afford to treat as mere support. However, I found it disappointing that EMS and cyber were consistently linked together. Future conflicts will be won or lost within the “maneuver space” of the Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS), regardless of other cyber operations. While cyber is clearly a critical area that demands national attention, we need just as much specific attention paid to our capabilities and capacities to operate with or without cyber in the physical medium of the EMS. Tying the two (regrettably related) but separate and distinct topics together dilutes the significance of the current and future challenge: Fight and win inside an increasingly congested, contested EMS. I have seen it more appropriately pinpointed at NSWC Crane where posters advertise “Control the Spectrum, Control the Fight!” Is there an article out there from a Flag or General officer on the importance of EW, or the significance of controlling the use of the EMS at a time and a place of our choosing – that was not written and/or published in China?

A few years ago, I was given a tremendous opportunity to form JCCS-1 to work with almost 300 Sailors, traveling together to Iraq to defeat the RC-IED threat to our forces in OIF. That was a rude awakening for the U.S. to find an adversary that was fighting inside the EMS better than we were. Fortunately, as soon as we focused on “controlling the EMS”, we could rely upon “the expertise and flexibility of our research base, our history of adaptation, and the skill and perseverance of our Sailors” that the CNO calls out in his blog. The personal and professional efforts of these young men and women, E-4 to O-5, ultimately led to significantly degrading RC-IED effectiveness, saving lives in combat through control of the EMS. Again, this particular fight was about conducting Electronic Warfare (EW): Electronic Attack (EA), Electronic Protect (EP) and Electronic Warfare Support (ES) within the EMS, and was rightfully segregated from other cyber issues. Whether it was industry, Army I2WD, JHU APL, Navy or Air Force, each partner leveraged its experience and expertise for a joint success story. Hopefully we have captured the painful lessons from having to create a force to enable fighting inside the EMS. We can bet that if the adversary saw an EMS vulnerability there, the next adversary will be looking in similar places.

It is encouraging that the Navy continues to lead in the investment for critical EW programs like the Next Generation Jammer, the EA-18G, and the Surface Warfare EW Improvement Program (SEWIP). I applaud the CNO’s unprecedented acknowledgement of the critical issues, especially including EMS, and also for the establishment of Fleet Cyber Command (FCC)/Commander TENTH Fleet (C10F), to focus on global cyber and EW operations, but I do have one concern when it comes to execution: Does anyone know who is actually held accountable for failure to be able to fight within the EMS? Who will be held responsible if our air forces are shot down because they were confused by the loss of GPS or worse yet by DRFM jammers? Who will be responsible if EMI, material condition or even lack of an effective EW training program prevents an ASMD systems from operating effectively at sea?

Our people are our greatest asset. We owe it to them to have the most capable fighting force within this new maneuver space. This is a terrific forum to generate the type of discussion that will highlight capability and capacity gaps to our naval leaders and future leaders. Knowing our organizational, budgetary and/or political restrictions, we must do more with what we have. We need the experts in your individual areas who are passionate about your skill set to inspire others to get together to find ways to leverage complementary talents. Electrons don’t care what color shoes you wear or even what platform you operate. Please share your thoughts to enable another joint success story for our forces.

CAPT Brian “Hinks” Hinkley US Navy (ret) currently work as VP, Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations for URS Federal Services, Inc. Retiring from the Navy in 2010, his highlights included: First Director, Fleet Electronic Warfare Center (FEWC), Norfolk, VA, responsible for highlighting current and future Navy EW shortfalls and prioritizing requirements across DOTMLPF areas impacting Fleet Man, Train, and Equip EW/Spectrum Management (SM) and Information Operations (IO) readiness. First Commander, Joint Counter Radio-Controlled Improvised Explosive Device EW (CREW) Composite Squadron ONE (JCCS-1), Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq, the first Navy force specifically designed to defeat the RC-IED threat to US, Coalition, and Partner Nation forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Commanding Officer, Tactical Electronic warfare Squadron (VAQ-135) during combat operations over Afghanistan and Iraq. Clearance: TS/SCI.

…one of many thoughts that went into my thinking for the post above – there are others…

– It is not a challenge of us having to merge spectrum and cyberspace – technology has already created the merger. Analog systems can now create digital effects and vice versa. As Admiral Greenert’s Proceedings article points out, “Jammers that once simply overloaded radar or communication receivers with EM energy can now use computer controllers to deny signals to receivers or retransmit altered signals to them that inject false targets, obscured areas, or even malicious computer code. Our newest radars and jammers can also coordinate and synchronize their operations automatically with one another through computer networks, even when the systems are on different ships, aircraft, or unmanned vehicles.” Technology has already created the merger between analog and digital, between traditional EW and Computer Network Operations. Our challenge is to build a force whose parochialisms within stove-piped communities like Intel, Cryptology and EW can be leveraged to build weapons systems and operators that can understand the physics behind the environment and the operational warfighting importance of fighting within this new “maneuver space”.

Posted by CAPT Brian "Hinks" Hinkley, USN (Ret.) in Cyber, Navy

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  • wonderful info.

  • John Clifford

    Great post Hinks. Clarity of thought is needed more than ever in these financially difficult times in an increasingly dangerous world, especially by leaders. The EM environment or domain (depending on which side of the Atlantic you work) underpins all our warfighting capability. It will also underpin operational offensive cyber warfare if it ever becomes a reality. For now resources must be focused on EW and related EM operations and on cyber defence and exploitation. Of course, we must study cyber attack, not least to better prepare our defences.

  • Henry Brus

    For over 50 years, there has been a small command on the banks of the Severn River, right across from the Naval Academy, dedicated to helping DoD with EMS issues. Starting out as the Electromagnetic Compatibility Analsys Center (ECAC) in the early 60’s, it transitioned to the Joint Spectrum Center in 1994 with the addition of the Operational Support (to COCOMs) and Electromagnetic Environmental Effects (E3) missions. In the late 1990’s “ownership” of the JSC transferred to the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). The JSC was later merged with a DISA division responsible for spectrum policy. The resulting organization is the Defense Spectrum Organization (DSO) – a field activity of DISA. Still located on the banks of the Severn — still helping DoD manage the EMS.