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New Strategy Details Department Goals for Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority

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The Defense Department today released the "2020 Department of Defense Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority Strategy," a road map for how the U.S. military can maintain freedom of action in the electromagnetic spectrum at the time, place, and parameters of its choosing.

An illustration depicting a soldier kneeling in the grass and operating electronic equipment.
Signal Support Graphic
A signal support system specialist prepares the radio system used to allow soldiers and airmen to keep in constant communications with one another during a mission.
Photo By: Graphic illustration by Regina Ali, DOD
VIRIN: 200910-D-ZZ999-001

The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of radiation frequencies used to transmit information wirelessly. While frequencies above 300GHz make up infrared light, visible light, ultraviolet light and x-rays, frequencies at 300GHz and below are used to transmit information for cell phones, television, radio, satellite communications, GPS and hand-held, two-way radios.

The Defense Department is one of the largest users of the EMS. For many years, the U.S. military remained uncontested in its use of the spectrum, meaning either domestically or abroad, wherever the military went, it was able to use whatever portion of the spectrum it wanted to facilitate its own communications.

It is no longer the case that the U.S. military has uncontested use of the EMS.

An illustration showing a tank firing its cannon.
Tank Firing Graphic
An illustration with an M1 Abrams tank firing.
Photo By: Graphic illustration by Regina Ali, DOD
VIRIN: 200910-D-ZZ999-002

Speaking on background during a conference call early today, two defense officials explained how the strategy will be instrumental in helping the department maintain mastery of the EMS against near-peer adversaries, who are developing their own expertise in the EMS.

The strategy, one official said, aligns the department's spectrum-dependent activities with the National Defense Strategy's focus on lethality, alliances and partnerships, and reform with the goal of achieving operational superiority in the electromagnetic spectrum.

The strategy includes five goals to help the department attain that superiority:

  1. Develop superior EMS capabilities.
  2. Evolve to an agile, fully integrated EMS architecture.
  3. Pursue total force EMS readiness.
  4. Secure enduring partnerships for EMS advantage.
  5. Establish effective EMS governance.

In the coming months, another official said, the strategy will be followed by an implementation plan that will operationalize and institutionalize the strategy. Development of the implementation plan has already started, the official said, through work with the department's chief information officer and other stakeholders in the department.

An illustration showing two helicopters hovering over an aircraft carrier at sea.
USS Nimitz Illustration
An illustration showing two MH-60S Seahawk helicopters conducting a vertical replenishment-at-sea with the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
Photo By: Graphic illustration by Regina Ali, DOD
VIRIN: 200910-D-ZZ999-003

''The rise of mobile systems and digital technology across the globe has placed enormous strain on the available spectrum for DOD's command, control, and communication needs,'' said Dana Deasy, the DOD chief information officer. "This strategy will help set the conditions needed to ensure our warfighters have freedom of action within the electromagnetic spectrum to successfully conduct operations and training in congested, contested and constrained multidomain environments across the globe."

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