Emerging Threats

The Pentagon’s research and engineering enterprise—the overall effort overseen by the assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering—has just published its new strategic guidance. The 11-page document, dated May 1, lays out the enterprise’s approach to new technology and notes the top threats to US forces in the near future. These threats are in electronic warfare, assured access to space, and the proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles. Digital electronics have made possible a “whole new class of jammers, radars operating in different frequencies, and new communication links,” eroding the US military’s ability to “operate freely in the electromagnetic spectrum,” states the report. While the United States is increasingly reliant on space systems, a growing number of state and non-state actors have the ability to interfere with satellites, using “both kinetic and non-kinetic” means. The United States will push to make its space systems more resilient and develop ways to “deliver these capabilities without a space layer,” states the report. Adversary missiles are proliferating so fast and getting so good that US missile defenses are “no longer practical or cost-effective,” states the document. The solution needed comprises both kinetic and non-kinetic means to reduce “advanced theater and cruise missile effectiveness,” and explore greater use of jamming and decoys.