Defense

New committee looks to elevate electronic warfare

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A committee at the Pentagon is looking to give senior defense officials insight into the trajectory of electronic warfare.

"We want a drumbeat that will go through [senior leaders] so that they can…make decisions about where they want to go and how they want to get there," said Jay Kistler of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

The goal of the Electronic Warfare Executive Committee, which Kistler said stood up in August 2015, is to translate electromagnetic experimentation into actual capabilities being deployed. Kistler, R&E's director of electronic warfare and countermeasures, spoke Feb. 4 at a National Defense Industrial Association breakfast in Alexandria, Va.

The committee is co-chaired by Frank Kendall, the Defense Department's top acquisition official, and Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It marks a renewed focus on electronic warfare from the Pentagon brass, who have watched closely as Russian forces have reportedly used electronic jamming adeptly in Ukraine.

A DOD study of EW concluded that the department had "lost focus on electronic warfare at the programmatic and strategic level," Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work wrote in a March 2015 memo directing the creation of the committee.

The military branches' acquisition executives are represented on the committee, as is the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. The group has met only a few times, Kistler said, but intends to dive deeper into the EW field. The group will tackle EW testing, training and prototyping, and make recommendations to Work and to Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Kistler spoke of EW as a rapidly flattening playing field in which the Pentagon is challenged to keep pace with technological advances.

"There are now hundreds more signals cluttering the battle space," operating at frequencies that some DOD legacy systems cannot detect, he said. "If you don't detect the signal, you can't respond the signal."

Money is another challenge. "EW equipment is very costly," Kistler said, though he added that officials also must do more with the budget they have.

This article was updated on Feb. 5 to reflect that the Electronic Warfare Executive Committee was established in August 2015.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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