Defense Official: Electronic Warfare Systems Needed, but Not Immune From Cuts
With every Pentagon research and procurement program facing up to a 20 percent reduction, even critical technologies such as electronic warfare are on the table, said Al Shaffer, acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering.
The Pentagon will have to decide just how important electronic warfare systems are to its strategy, Shaffer said Oct. 28 at the Association of Old Crows international symposium.
"We have to be bold enough, leadership-wise, not to take a salami slicer to the budget. Some areas may be more important than others," he said. "When you're faced with a crisis, you do have the opportunity to make some bold decisions. You can actually terminate work in some areas that's not very important. … If EW is truly important to the government, I think they'll find a way to fund it."
Meanwhile, adversaries are developing electronic warfare systems that cover higher and lower frequencies, stressing U.S. technologies more than ever before, he said. "We've got to develop adaptability, we've got to be able to go to much broader bandwidth, we've got to develop agility in our waveform to be able to deal with a new class of threats coming out of the digital domain."
Common among all services is the desire for modular electronic warfare systems that allow parts to be swapped and software to be uploaded easily.
Improved electronic warfare capabilities are also needed to protect systems in space, such as the global positioning system, which could be degraded or jammed, Shaffer said.
The Air Force recently launched its “advanced components for electronic warfare” program, focused on basic electronic parts such as millimeter wave technologies and photonics, said Russell Partch, the Air Force’s C4ISR technology lead. The service this summer awarded nine contracts worth nearly $3 million.
The Army is on the hunt for electronic warfare technologies that are lighter, smaller and use less power, said Nancy Harned of the office of the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for research and technology. "They have to be cheap enough that they can be bought in large quantities [and] be portable by the soldier."
The Navy wants to be able to operate across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, giving sailors the capability to create false signatures without allowing adversaries to jam the service’s sensors, said Walter Jones, executive director of the Office of Naval Research. Jones did not cite any specific requirements, but said the Navy is continuing to invest in electronic warfare despite budget challenges.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper gave a keynote speech in which he named sequestration, insider threats and the possibility of further government shutdowns as three of the biggest challenges to the intelligence community.
It’s difficult to convey the impact of sequestration to the public, especially when many of its effects will take months or even years to notice, Clapper said. If reductions under sequestration continue, there will be less intelligence available for personnel to analyze.
“From my vantage, where I sit, we simply can’t sustain the cuts … over the long term,” he said.