Army shores up EM spectrum skills

Iraq fighting shows need for spectrum management on the ground

The ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan'real-world examples of asymmetric warfare'have shown the Army its deficiencies in the area of electromagnetic (EM) spectrum management. Now, the Army is trying to beef up its spectrum capabilities, both in defensive and offensive areas.

That could help defend against improvised explosive devices, which have been the leading cause of military deaths since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Through the first week of March of this year, 3,190 military personnel have been killed in Iraq'1,171, or 36.7 percent, by IED explosions, according to the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, a unit of the Brookings Institution.

'This is a critical domain within asymmetric warfare,' said Maj. Kalie Rott, deputy branch chief of the new Army Asymmetric Warfare Office (AWO), said this month at the Association of the United States Army winter symposium. Enemy fighters are using the EM spectrum against American troops, Rott said, for instance by using remote devices to trigger IEDs. And the insurgents have shown great flexibility in quickly adapting to take advantage of potential weaknesses in U.S. forces' activities.

The Army was ill-equipped at first to deal in-house with the threat.

'At the start of the operations [in Afghanistan and Iraq], electronic-warfare capability rested on the shoulders of one contractor,' Rott said.

In the early days of the insurgency, the Army relied on electronic-warfare specialists from the Navy and Air Force, both of which have established EW offices and offer specialty training for personnel.

But 'EMS is emerging as the new battlespace,' Rott said. In its fiscal 2007 supplemental budget request, the Defense Department requested $2.4 billion to support counter-IED programs, and another $4 billion in the 2008 budget that Congress is considering.

As the need for ongoing skills became apparent, the Army in April 2006 established AWO, the staff-level organization to develop and promote AW strategy, policy, programs, resources and priorities.

Within AWO, the Army created several divisions to address specific aspects of asymmetric warfare, particularly dealing with the IED threat. One, the Electronic Warfare Division, has the task of creating EW policy and supporting the development of EM spectrum concepts that can be translated into equipment. The division also is responsible for training and certifying Army electronic warfare operators, Rott said.

By March 2008, AWO expects to have a plan for a force structure to support the Army's needs on the ground, Rott said.

'One of the immediate things is to train soldiers [so that] there are organic EW operators in each unit,' he said.

The EW division is responsible for counter-radio controlled IED electronic warfare (CREW) equipment. Rott said the Army is in the source-selection stage for CREW II, a contract for improved counter IED technology, and is already working on a requirements document for CREW III.

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