The Defense Department’s (DoD) new Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority Strategy released last week marks a shift in the Pentagon’s views of spectrum from separate considerations of warfare-directed and general management uses, to a “unified treatment of these activities as Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations (EMSO),” said Defense Secretary Mark Esper in the strategy document.

DoD CIO Dana Deasy, and the senior designated official of DoD’s EMSO Cross-Functional Team, will oversee implementation of the strategy, and has six months to create a roadmap and implementation plan.

“The Nation has entered an age of warfighting wherein U.S. dominance in air, land, sea, space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) is challenged by peer and near peer adversaries,” Esper said. “These challenges have exposed the cross-cutting reliance of U.S. Forces on the EMS, and are driving a change in how the DoD approaches activities in the EMS to maintain an all-domain advantage.”

“EMS challenges go well beyond the military battlespace,” he said, adding, “The EMS is being repurposed for commercial mobile broadband technologies to bolster economic growth and prosperity, which further restricts DoD’s freedom of action.”

“These sophisticated technologies represent new opportunities for the Department and our national economy. However, they also present new challenges across the competition continuum as the electromagnetic operational environment becomes increasingly congested, contested, and constrained (i.e., complex),” Esper said.

The new strategy, the Defense Secretary said, seeks to:

  • Align EMS resources and capabilities across DoD “to support our core national security objectives while remaining mindful of the importance of U.S. economic prosperity”;
  • Focus on strengthening alliances to achieve DoD’s vision of “freedom of action” in spectrum; and
  • Evolve to an agile, fully integrated EMS infrastructure.

Freedom of action in EMS, the strategy document says, “is a required precursor to the successful conduct of operations in all domains.” It continues, “Forces in 2030 and beyond will be ready to fight and win through the deliberate, institutional pursuit of EMS superiority. This enterprise-wide condition of strategic advantage will result from unified efforts to create conditions for success in congested, contested, and constrained EMOEs.”

“Investment in these areas will speed decision-quality information to the warfighter, establish effective electromagnetic battle management (EMBM), enable EMS sharing with commercial partners, advance EMS warfighting capabilities, and ensure our forces maintain EMS superiority,” Esper said.

The strategy document talks about the need to employ spectrum sharing arrangements, especially amid growing commercial demand for spectrum for 5G wireless services, but does not appear to break new policy ground on DoD’s current request for information request for information (RFI) on 5G wireless services.

The RFI seeks comment on, among other things, how DoD can share the spectrum it already holds with other parties for 5G services, with the overarching goal of “accelerating spectrum sharing decisions and 5G deployment.” The RFI also seeks comment on how DoD could own and operate its own 5G network for domestic operations. Wireless industry trade groups have pushed back against DoD ownership of 5G networks.

The traditional model of static frequency allocation is not sufficient, and a new model is needed to address the growing demand for access to an increasingly congested and constrained EMS,” the new DoD strategy states. “Spectrum sharing offers a new model for greater freedom of action within the EMS.”

“Increased spectrum sharing remains a critical priority for the Department to meet the growing demands for spectrum access from both commerce and DoD,” the document says.

“This sharing should include implementation of dynamic and bidirectional sharing for facilitating access to commercial spectrum while addressing the cybersecurity risk of an information sharing infrastructure outside of the DoD Information Enterprise, and pursuing machine-to-machine technologies that enable cognitive cohabitation in the spectrum,” the strategy document says.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.