Citing an "increasing quality and availability of electronic warfare capabilities" by other governments and "non-state actors," the GAO recommended a series of steps to be taken by the Pentagon, including more clearly defining roles and responsibilities for electronic warfare management.
The GAO defines electronic warfare as "any military action involving the use of electromagnetic and directed energy to control the electromagnetic spectrum or to attack the enemy." The electromagnetic spectrum includes radio, microwave, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays. The DOD has invested billions of dollars in weapons and communications systems that rely on access to the electromagnetic spectrum.
[ Read about the DOD's mobile device strategy. See Pentagon Outlines Mobile Device Plan. ]
The GAO report follows the November 2011 release of DOD's annual report to Congress on its electronic warfare strategy. Last December, the DOD made the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Control Center (JEMSCC), which operates under the umbrella of U.S. Strategic Command, its focal point for electronic warfare operations. But GAO determined that there is no comprehensive implementation plan to define the center's objectives and major tasks.
"DOD has taken some steps to address a critical leadership gap identified in 2009, but it has not established a department-wide governance framework for planning, directing, and controlling electronic warfare activities," said the GAO.
The Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy each acquire their own airborne electronic attack systems, and GAO observed that opportunities may exist to consolidate some of those acquisition efforts. "With the prospect of slowly-growing or flat defense budgets for years to come, the department must get better returns on its weapon system investments and find ways to deliver more capability to the warfighter for less than it has in the past," the report said.
GAO called attention to the relationship between electronic warfare and cyberspace operations, including the use of cyberspace capabilities to achieve military objectives, such as attacking or exploiting enemy computer networks. Because cyberspace capabilities require ways to communicate with networks, they must be able to make use of the electromagnetic spectrum. "Electronic warfare and cyberspace operations are complementary and have potentially synergistic effects," the report stated.
GAO made recommendations for improving DOD's management of electronic warfare operations and capabilities. They include directing the Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (AT&L) and other officials to publish performance measures to help guide strategy implementation, to identify required resources, and to articulate the roles and responsibilities of the people involved. The GAO also recommended that the objectives and major tasks of the JEMSCC be better-defined.
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