DOD needs more than a few good spectrum managers

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Defense Department’s radio frequency spectrum is an invisible and finite resource that is so critical to network-centric warfare that the Navy has allowed 250 electronic warfare officers to work with the Army to manage deconfliction issues in Iraq, said John Grimes, DOD chief information officer and assistant secretary of Defense for networks and information integration.

He gave a keynote speech here at the AFCEA’s Defense Spectrum Summit Dec. 6.

The Army considers spectrum management so important it has decided to develop a primary Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) for spectrum managers and expects approval of that new career field soon, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Foley, the Army’s director of architecture, operations and space, told the conference attendees.

Forces operating in Iraq need spectrum managers to meet the challenge of integrating new systems into a battlefield awash with frequency-dependent systems without conflict. That’s a challenge, he said, because conflicts are inevitable. For example, DOD found that other emitters on the battlefield were knocking out the Global Positioning System receivers used in a class of inexpensive unmanned aerial vehicles. Grimes said the use of low-cost commercial GPS receivers in the UAVs caused this interference.

DOD also faces the challenge of operating high-powered jammers to take out enemy radio-controlled improvised explosive devices without disabling vital friendly systems, Grimes said. The need for frequency deconfliction and countering the IED threat are two main examples of why DOD’s spectrum management focus is on the warfighter, Grimes said.

Besides creating a new primary MOS, the Army would like to have two spectrum managers in its brigade combat teams instead of one, Foley said. The Navy is also establishing spectrum management as a career path, and the Marine Corps has already designated it as a career field, Foley added.

But better management alone will not resolve all of DOD’s spectrum issues, Foley said. Spectrum requirements must incorporated into the combat system development process with new policies because existing Army regulations are insufficient to ensure that spectrum requirements are handled upfront in the development process.

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