Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 83-- Electromagnetic Spectrum: Key to Success in Future Conflicts The world is moving toward new warfighting paradigms, and the electromagnetic spectrum holds the key to DoD's successful use of technological advantages of today and tomorrow.
Volume 11, Number 83
Electromagnetic Spectrum: Key to Success in Future Conflicts
Prepared remarks by Emmett Paige Jr., assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications and intelligence, to the Armed Forces Communications Electronics Association Spectrum Management Symposium, Washington, July 10, 1996.
The focus of my remarks today is on the radio frequency, or RF, portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. I will touch on some of the characteristics of the spectrum, review its importance to the DoD and outline how the DoD's experience and expertise in using the electromagnetic spectrum efficiently can point the way towards technical approaches that will ensure adequate spectrum access for both the private sector and the public sector of our society.
My objective today is to leave no doubt whatsoever about the importance of the spectrum to defense and national security.
I am not here to sell you some wolf tickets, but to give you the facts from the [perspective] of the person in DoD who has the charter responsibility.
Let's begin with some of the unique characteristics of the electromagnetic spectrum. We human beings cannot perceive it --- we cannot see it, taste it, hear it, smell it or feel it. Yet our everyday lives are tremendously affected by our use of the spectrum.
I'm talking about television, cellular telephones, weather satellites, cruise missiles, microwave ovens, the air traffic control system, police radars, tornado tracking Doppler radars, MRIs [magnetic resonance images], baby monitors, command and control systems, car radios, pagers and reconnaissance/strike systems.
Through our toolmaking creativity, we have taken an intangible resource, the electromagnetic spectrum, and developed systems and devices that have immense tangible impact on our society and our national security. We may not be able see the RF spectrum, but we can see its utility. It is intangible, but it has immense value. Today, that value is measured not only in what we can do with the spectrum, but also in monetary value of that utility, both in terms of revenues for the U.S. Treasury and the market place value of spectrum use licenses.
This intangible but immensely useful resource, the electromagnetic spectrum, has another key characteristic -- it is finite. We have today all the spectrum we are ever going to have. But because of its immense utility, our use of the spectrum is growing every day, and by "our" I mean everybody: the private sector; local, state and federal government; domestic and international alike. This seeming paradox -- ever greater use of a finite resource -- is made possible by our technological advances. We are able to exploit the spectrum wisely and ever more efficiently. Through technological advances, such as the digital communications techniques initially developed by the military, we as a society are able to do more with the same amount of spectrum. It is this technology-enabled increase in efficient use of the spectrum that has enabled humankind to wring ever increasing usage out of the finite electromagnetic spectrum. So let there be no doubt that the spectrum is an intangible and finite resource of ever increasing utility and ever increasing value to all of us. I am convinced that we still have a lot to learn and a long way to go in terms of getting more effective and more efficient use of the overall spectrum.
We in the Department of Defense and the intelligence community fully understand the ever increasing utility and ever increasing value of the electromagnetic spectrum. The DoD's needs are increasing too. Our tasks for the nation have become more challenging since the end of the Cold War, for we are being called upon to do more things in more places than ever before. Right now, the department has efforts under way across the breadth of the world, involving peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, disaster relief, counterterrorism, counternarcotics, counterproliferation, regional security and the protection of U.S. citizens. All of this is occurring while we are also maintaining our readiness to fight two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts and continuing our deterrence of nuclear conflict.
These diverse and far-flung activities share at least two common features: First, they are being accomplished in defense of our nation and its citizens; second, they cannot be accomplished without use of the electromagnetic spectrum. That's a hard, cold fact that everyone must face up to. We are not "blowing smoke."
As our use of technology has advanced, enabling us to have greater impact with fewer forces, our dependence on the electromagnetic spectrum has increased.
Our military, just like much of our modern society, simply cannot function without adequate access to the electromagnetic spectrum. What does loss of spectrum access mean to our nation's military capability?
Essentially, the impact of diminished spectrum access will be a reduction in the effectiveness and overall capability of our military forces. It will impact our capacity to efficiently execute our mission. Losing spectrum is like losing any other resource, it costs.
Less spectrum access yields an increased expenditure of time, funds and other resources to develop, test and field alternative capabilities or work-arounds that in many cases will be less effective than the capabilities they replace.
Less spectrum access yields a degradation of military readiness while alternative capabilities are developed and due to more complicated training requirements. Each work-around is one more thing our young people must learn and remember, perhaps while under fire. Each time we are forced to "adjust" training in the United States away from operational norms to accommodate domestic spectrum constraints, our training realism and hence training effectiveness suffers.
Loss of spectrum access forces us to expend other resources to compensate or make expenditures that do not advance our capabilities.
The issue of spectrum stress is as great at home as it is with our deployed forces. With our permanent overseas presence significantly reduced, 85 percent of our forces train and exercise in the continental United States. If we cannot train as we fight, no matter how advanced our equipment may be, there can be little doctrinal development or organizational changes, and in the mind of the warrior, no confidence [in] the use of those advanced systems. As a result, our great technological advantage is squandered.
The reallocation of government spectrum executed over the past decade and the upcoming reallocation of spectrum associated with Title IV of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 are already forcing DoD to re-engineer or replace equipment that is still effective and long before the end of its planned life cycle.
From my perspective, the DoD and the nation are losing in two ways: the cost in lost military effectiveness and the financial cost of re-engineering, redesign or replacing existing systems. The ability of our target acquisition radars, remotely piloted vehicles, missile systems, shipboard air traffic control radars, long-range air surveillance radars and tactical radio relay to perform as intended in both peacetime and conflict is being directly affected. Further, we have not yet felt the impact of the 235 MHz [megahertz] reallocation of Title IV as those frequencies are not yet being used by the private sector. The department is concerned that even more reallocation and system relocation will be demanded before the impact of the 235 MHz reallocation of Title VI has been realized. We are concerned that decisions will be made without adequate consideration of impact on military capability and of the cost to relocate systems. I have the feeling that there are many folks on the [Capitol] Hill and in this country that do not care or at least do not believe us when we tell them that their military forces will be impacted.
The department fears the spectrum upon which our ability to execute national security missions depends will be reduced to the vanishing point; reduced to the point that we cross the threshold being unable to provide adequate support to our young men and women in the field and the units to which they are assigned. A hasty decision to reallocate government spectrum will be costly for the department -- costly financially, costly in readiness and costly in our ability to defend the nation.
There are some, not realizing these costs, who have suggested that we in the military just move our systems to "some other" frequency bands or replace existing systems with new ones using other bands of frequencies, but they are not the same folks who authorize and appropriate funds to DoD.
I submit that there are factors in addition to cost that must be considered. First, in some cases we use the bands we do because they are the frequencies that work for the purpose at hand. The physics of radio wave propagation is not something we can change. In other cases, our use of the spectrum is bound by international agreements since DoD operations are conducted worldwide. Relocation of systems is not trivial because each piece of equipment interacts with many others. Relocation and adjustment can have a domino effect. Changes in any single part of the system can force changes in other parts of the integrated military system. Then there is the cost factor. Changing the operating frequency of a piece of equipment is a re-engineering effort; replacing perfectly effective equipment just to effect a frequency change is costly. This is particularly difficult in an era of declining budgets. Lastly, the spectrum we move to often is less optimal for the functions concerned that the spectrum we leave. Hence, not only do we spend more, we get less.
There are some who accuse DoD of hoarding spectrum. This simply is not true. In the first place, DoD owns no spectrum. We are permitted access to specific bands of frequencies by joint agreement with NTIA [National Telecommunications Information Administration] and the FCC [Federal Communications Commission]. Overseas, we have similar agreements with each host nation within whose borders we operate. In the United States our frequency assignments are approved by NTIA. DoD has access to spectrum, we do not own it. Today, in the most desirable bands of frequency below three GHz [gigahertz], 30 percent of the frequencies are reserved for the exclusive use of the private sector. The private sector and the federal government share access to 56 percent of the frequencies. Thus, only 14 percent of the frequencies below three GHz are reserved for federal use. Over 86 percent of this valuable part of the RF spectrum is today available to the private sector, and that percentage will increase when the provisions of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 come into effect.
The need to review spectrum usage, to clearly articulate requirements and identify opportunities for sharing does not fall upon the DoD and other federal users alone, but also upon all users of the spectrum in the United States. Spectrum sharing is a way to satisfy the growing demands, both private and government, for this finite and increasingly important resource. We know this can be done because the Department of Defense does it daily. Our definition of sharing is using technology and coordination to enable disparate users to exploit the same spectrum; multiple users of the same frequencies whose individual uses are technically compatible; multiple reuse of the same frequencies through physical separation of users. We develop and implement technical spectrum sharing criteria among the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. There has never been an abundance spectrum. We have never been able to give each individual system or individual user the luxury of their own unshared frequency bands. We carefully examine the functions to be performed. We separate the high-powered or highly critical spectrum uses from other uses to prevent interference. We collocate compatible uses. We engineer our systems to operate compatibly -- tolerant of other uses in the same or nearby bands. We also employ dynamic management to maximize frequency reuse to meet our extensive requirements. To meet emerging military and intelligence data transfer requirements, which are expected to exceed multigigabits of information, demands effective spectrum utilization on our part. We know that sharing of spectrum works because we do it every day throughout the world. Outside of the DoD in contrast, sharing often means highly inefficient band segmentation in which individual users are provided their own piece of the spectrum, often with additional, valuable spectrum squandered as unused "guard bands." Lastly, we know that spectrum sharing will work even better in the future with the advent of digital communications technology.
Drawing from DoD's national and worldwide experiences, two essential elements for successful spectrum sharing are performance criteria and standards for the technical design of receivers as well as transmitters. We have and use performance standards and receiver standards within the DoD. Many other nations in the world have both receiver standards and transmitter standards. Today, the U.S. employs only transmitter standards. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1995 did include language on the adoption of receiver standards. To date, the FCC has taken no action on this. ... The United States needs to implement and enforce such standards to ensure that commercial, federal and military systems can operate harmoniously when used within the United States or in other countries. The adoption of such standards by the United States would also aid the international competitiveness of our industry's spectrum-dependent products.
The Department of Defense is concerned that we are viewed as the only, or as the principal, source of reallocatable spectrum for meeting the growing needs of the private sector. Instead of a national review of all spectrum use, there has been a persistent erosion of government spectrum and the apparent adoption of an implicit policy that concentrates on government spectrum as the default source to satisfy new private sector needs.
Our worldwide experience convinces us there is a better way to ensure adequate spectrum access for all users than the "zero sum game" of reallocation. But if that is the reallocation approach taken, it must be taken with great care. As Secretary [of Defense William J.] Perry stated in his Nov. 4, 1995, letter to Sens. [Trent] Lott [Miss.], [John] McCain [Ariz.] and [Kay B.] Hutchinson [Texas], before any further government spectrum is reallocated, target bands must be carefully reviewed. Consideration of the impacts on cost, military operations, intelligence operations and ultimately national security must be a priority.
The Department of Defense knows the value of the electromagnetic spectrum. In the gulf war, the coalition's first attacks were aimed at Iraq's use of the spectrum, Iraq's radars and communications. We sought to render our adversary blind, deaf and dumb by denying him access to the electromagnetic spectrum.
Without the spectrum, the Iraqis could not mount a coordinated offense and could not sustain any defense. Without immediate access to spectrum, neither could we.
The issue is more complex than summary statements regarding the relative ease or difficulty of reallocating DoD spectrum. [Army] Gen. [John M.] Shalikashvili [chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff] strongly asserts that coalition warfare is our preferred strategy. Much of our current spectrum access is linked to international access afforded our alliance and coalition partners worldwide. Loss or reallocation of this access would have significant repercussions in our ability to operate effectively with other nations. As we shift to other less advantageous areas of the spectrum, our allies are left with awkward choices. Our commanders in the field and at sea must not be limited in either operational flexibility or ability to operate with allies.
Well over a decade ago, a Soviet general reportedly said something like "to prevail in the next conflict, one must control the electromagnetic spectrum." That statement proved true in the Bacca Valley and on deserts in Iraq.
The Department of Defense is committed to ensuring that "in the next conflict" it is we who will control the spectrum. We know its value.
Gen. Shalikashvili is fond of noting that the nature of war is unchanged, but its character is in constant change. He is exactly right. We are moving toward new warfighting paradigms. These opportunities are available only to those willing to boldly exploit the technological advantages of the type that we currently hold.
Remember that the electromagnetic spectrum hold[s] the key to our successful use of our technological advantages of today and tomorrow.
Thanks for letting me share a few minutes with you this afternoon.
Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/index.html.