Could faster buying undermine electronic warfare prep?

Some measures that protect weapons systems against electronic vulnerabilities can be “pushed aside” during rapid acquisitions, according to David Tremper, the electronic warfare director for the Defense Department.

air defense satellite dishes (zef art/

There could be a downside to the Defense Department’s voracious appetite for buying technology faster: skipping key requirements that protect against electronic vulnerabilities.

David Tremper, the electronic warfare director for the Defense Department, said of the three EW pillars -- electronic attacks, electronic support and electronic protection -- some protective measures, specifically testing against electronic vulnerabilities in weapons systems, can get “pushed aside” during rapid acquisitions.

The Defense Department drew up EW protection requirements as part of the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System process for weapons systems. As defense acquisition professionals start going down rapid acquisition paths, Tremper said it’s important to be “very careful about preserving the goodness in some of the JCIDS requirements,” and ensure that systems are girded against EW threats before they’re fielded.

“When you start to build an agile acquisition framework, [you] start to look at ways that we can acquire things faster,” Tremper said during an electromagnetic spectrum operations panel at the Dec. 1 Association for Old Crows annual conference, “One of the things that happens when you do that is the traditional JDICS process is pushed aside. As soon as that gets pushed aside, things like [electromagnetic spectrum] survivability -- things that are required [for] acquisition programs – [become] one of the babies in the bathwater that just got pushed aside for the purpose of rapid acquisition,” he said.

“I think anybody who's dealt with upgrading systems realizes that if you don't design that in from the beginning, you can't just sprinkle magic pixie dust over your box and suddenly you have this EMS hardened system,” Tremper said. “You really have to factor it in from the beginning because it affects performance, it affects costs ... and so we have to be careful.”

The Defense Department’s 2020 electromagnetic spectrum superiority strategy notes acquisition’s role in helping DOD achieve its EMS goals -- from incorporating it in formal doctrine and training to having the military services and DOD “harmonize their requirements for new acquisitions” to support spectrum maneuvering.

One of the first objectives listed in the strategy calls for a comprehensive acquisition approach, using modular open systems and “the flexibility provided by the Adaptive Acquisition Framework to accelerate delivery .. including rapid prototyping and rapid fielding pathways.”

Tremper said the goal is to put out “EMS-experienced systems that are going out into the field, that have been through that rigor, and you know that they're going to survive and you're not just basing on some line of code that somebody wrote in because it was a requirement they had to check in an acquisition program.”

The EW expert went on to say that the department’s rewrite of acquisition guidance, the Adaptive Acquisition Framework, could better sync research community’s acquisition efforts “to quickly build it up and march forward, hands together, on a prototype system that is rapidly developed in support of acquisition.”

“That is the mechanism that allows some of these advanced capabilities.”