Pentagon explores multiple paths to electronic warfare acquisition

Shutterstock image: a global system of information relays.

The Pentagon is continuing to look for innovative ways to develop and buy technology to use in electronic warfare, the Defense Department's assistant secretary for acquisition told an AFCEA luncheon on April 10.

The Defense Department rolled out its Better Buying Power 3.0 on April 9, adding cybersecurity to the list of potential trouble spots in weapons, IT and other acquisitions. Although that new document pays special attention to ensuring cybersecurity is baked into the lifecycle of military networks and systems, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Katrina McFarland said her department is looking at multiple ways to innovate electronic warfare technologies more efficiently.

She said her office set up an electronic warfare "shop" in the last week that will explore new ways to communicate in increasingly complex operational environments. Requests for information should be coming soon from that new effort, she said, but she provided no further details on the specifics of the operation.

Innovation is an increasingly crucial part of electronic warfare, McFarland added. The network environment has changed "logarithmically" from the radio-based networks of the 1980s and 1990s to the always-on, multi-channel networks of today. Such an increasingly complex radio-wave environment "challenges EW communications," she said. "It's changed what we do."

A more comprehensive approach to cybersecurity taken by the armed forces has begun to yield returns, she said, but more needs to be done. Better Buying Power 3.0, McFarland said, is a significant advance from Better Buying Power 1.0, which was essentially a collection of "best practices."

Better Buying Power 1.0 and 2.0 were more focused on reforming the acquisition processes and making them more efficient. The third iteration is about the larger picture of providing warfighters with a decisive technological edge even in the face of declining budgets and increasingly tech savvy foreign actors, according to McFarland.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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