EMS Not its Own Domain of Warfare, Strategy Implementer Says

Although the Pentagon has contemplated designating the Electromagnetic Spectrum as a combat domain, it is no longer thinking that way, the officer in charge of developing an EMS strategy implementation plan said.

Speaking on a C4ISRNET streaming event Nov. 12, Air Force Brig. Gen. Darrin P. Leleux, who is leading the effort to implement the Pentagon’s recently released EMS strategy, said the Pentagon’s “current thinking”  is that EMS “is not a domain … It is an enabler for all of the other five domains,” meaning air, land, sea, space, and cyber. And, “It proliferates throughout all the other domains. For example, you can’t have air superiority without EMS superiority,” he observed.

In 2015, the Pentagon was set to designate EMS as a separate domain of warfare, but was delayed by the formation of an executive-level EMS steering committee meant to work out the details. It ultimately focused on separating cyber as an operating domain and creating joint groups to focus on electronic warfare.

The Pentagon rolled out a new EMS strategy Oct. 29, and plans to come up with a roadmap for how to implement it by March 2021; however, the strategy does not yet have a budget associated with it, he reported.

“I’ve asked the [implementation] team, as they develop the tasks, to identify several components within that task,” said Leleux, the deputy director for the Secretary of Defense’s electromagnetic spectrum operations cross functional team. “One of those is a sense of a cost; the resources necessary to accomplish that task, and the risk associated with not accomplishing that task.” The goal is to use those answers to “make decisions, once it comes to execution of the strategy, on the trades that are going to need to happen as these bubble up to budgetary discussions.”

The information gathered in the run-up to the implementation plan will be factored into the “risk trades that need to be made at the Department,” he said.

Leleux was asked why it has taken so long to develop a strategy and a roadmap for EMS dominance, given that China, Russia, and other adversaries’ rapid advancement—and likely, parity—in the EMS arena has been long acknowledged. He responded that “over the last 20 years, we’ve been preoccupied with non-peer adversaries.” The 2018 National Defense Strategy “recognized the re-emergence of long-term strategic competition with near-peer adversaries,” and the EMS strategy is “really an outgrowth” of what the NDS said. It is the Pentagon’s effort to “to align” the EMS warfare enterprise with the NDS, Leleux said.