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Strategic Goals For Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority
by U.S. Department of Defense
November 8, 2020

The "2020 Department of Defense Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority Strategy" is 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.

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. (U.S. Department of Defense graphic illustration by Regina Ali - September 10, 2020)
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. (U.S. Department of Defense graphic illustration by Regina Ali - September 10, 2020)

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 with an M1 Abrams tank firing. (U.S. Department of Defense graphic illustration by Regina Ali - September 10, 2020)
An illustration with an M1 Abrams tank firing. (U.S. Department of Defense graphic illustration by Regina Ali - September 10, 2020)

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 MH-60S Seahawk helicopters conducting a vertical replenishment-at-sea with the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz. (U.S. Department of Defense graphic illustration by Regina Ali - September 10, 2020)
An illustration showing two MH-60S Seahawk helicopters conducting a vertical replenishment-at-sea with the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz. (U.S. Department of Defense graphic illustration by Regina Ali - September 10, 2020)

''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 multi-domain environments across the globe."

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