The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a Dec. 10 report the Department of Defense (DoD) is at risk of not being able to fully achieve its electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) strategy goals without addressing key issues.

Referring to the DoD’s EMS strategy released in September 2020, GAO said the plan’s goals risk the same failed fate as DoD’s 2013 and 2017 EMS strategy goals without creating an implementation plan that includes oversight and accountability. GAO also reports DoD will need to focus on “identifying processes and procedures to integrate EMS operations (EMSO) across the department, reforming governance structures, and clearly assigning leadership for strategy implementation.”

“The department’s operations in all domains – air, land, sea, space, and cyber – depend on the ability to use and control the EMS,” GAO said in a letter to the House Committee on Armed Services. “However, technological advances could result in EMS dependent capabilities being among the first to be targeted in a conflict.”

The report specifically cites advancements made by China and Russia in the EMS space that threatens the ability of DoD to have EMS “superiority.” The report makes five recommendations for addressing the issues it found, centering around “refining the processes and procedures” involved, creating a clear structure for how to govern the programs, and implementing the strategies.

If all are addressed, the GAO said the DoD stands a much better chance at achieving superiority in the EMS arena. The report specifically named the lack of clear oversight structure as an issue that doomed the 2013 and 2017 plans.

DoD concurred with GAO on the need for clear structures and implementation plans. DoD said the Secretary will need to review the recommendations to identify senior leadership and start implementing the 2020 plan within 180 days before fully agreeing, but at least partially agreed with those GAO recommendations.


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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.