• Panelists discussing spectrum challenges at TechNet Cyber 2022 are (l-r) Christopher Argo, Defense Spectrum Organization; Brig. Gen. Darrin Leleux, USAF; Vernita Harris, DISA; David Tremper, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition; and Brian Hermann, DISA.  Photo by Michael Carpenter
     Panelists discussing spectrum challenges at TechNet Cyber 2022 are (l-r) Christopher Argo, Defense Spectrum Organization; Brig. Gen. Darrin Leleux, USAF; Vernita Harris, DISA; David Tremper, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition; and Brian Hermann, DISA. Photo by Michael Carpenter

Know Thy Spectrum, Experts Say

April 26, 2022
By Robert K. Ackerman
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It’s more important than ever, and knowledge about it may be a game changer.


The electromagnetic spectrum may be the key to prevailing in cyberspace during a conflict, and many of the requisites that apply to other domains also are vital in that realm. Foremost among these is situational awareness, as forces may not be able to win the spectrum battle without effective understanding of its conditions in real time.

The importance of spectrum was discussed by a theater session panel at TechNet Cyber 2022, being held in Baltimore April 26-28. The three-day event offered a heavy representation from the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), and two of the five panelists discussion spectrum challenges were from the agency.

One of them, Brian Hermann, director, Cyber Security and Analytics Directorate at DISA, emphasized the importance of spectrum. “There couldn’t be a more challenging time to have near peer competition going on,” Hermann said in his remarks about the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS). “Every single decision basis of getting data to the user involves spectrum.”

Vernita Harris, director, Electromagnetic Spectrum Enterprise Policy and Programs, Defense Department Chief Information Officer’s office, was succinct. “We need to start thinking of spectrum as a strategic asset, not just frequency or hopping,” she declared.

Brig. Gen. Darrin Leleux, USAF, deputy director, Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations Cross Functional Team, added his own characterization. “We need to be agile in the spectrum. We need to be able to observe the spectrum and act on it. Think of it as a maneuver space,” he offered.

And situational awareness for that maneuver space may be the key to winning any future conflict, which is sure to feature a high degree of spectrum operations. DISA’s Christopher Argo, director, Defense Spectrum Organization, described how the electromagnetic battle management tool would enable commanders and warfighters to make quick decisions to fight through the electromagnetic spectrum within conflict. Gen. Leleux agreed with its importance.

“We need the electromagnetic battle management system,” the general declared. “We need to know what is going on to make quick decisions.”

And that capability will be essential for the Joint All Domain Command and Control system (JADC2), panelists said. Hermann stated that electromagnetic battle management is one of the key capabilities that ought to be on the JADC2 radar. “Everything we do in JADC2 depends on spectrum, and it’s getting tougher and tougher,” he declared.

Argo noted that the initial operating capability for the electromagnetic battle management tool is in September, with full operational capability coming in fiscal year 2024. This brought up a discussion on acquisition of spectrum-dependent systems. David Tremper, director, electronic warfare, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, said the acquisition community is attempting to find those areas where it can break methods and bring about faster acquisition. But he also warned of a challenge in how to meet all of the system requirements rapidly while trying to sidestep acquisition rules. And, survivability must be an original requisite.

“You can’t go back after the fact and make electromagnetic systems survivable,” he stated. “You have to bake it in from the beginning.

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