Spectrum Innovation for Battlefield Success

March 2017

The Department of Defense (DoD) stands at a crossroads facing an information technology (IT) future that is fast moving, connected, and highly contested – and spectrum access is at the center of this whirlwind. Spectrum is a critical asset to DoD that empowers battlefield connectivity, and assured access to spectrum and effective stewardship of it are critical to support the warfighter. One-hundred percent of DoD missions depend on spectrum, and spectrum access is critical to ensure the warfighter can deliver effects when called upon.

National defense and ensuring that the warfighter can bring to bear the capability necessary to win on the battlefield is the top priority for the DoD Chief Information Officer. For warfighters, spectrum access is critical to nearly everything they do, like communications and sensing. This includes satellite-based precision data to gain situational awareness, unmanned aircraft system missions that provide flexible, resilient capabilities, and communication options to accomplish missions. Spectrum is the maneuver space behind nearly all of these warfighting operations, and many more. Planes, ships, satellites – all require spectrum. There are no wires coming out of the sky, sea, or space. Mission success depends on spectrum access, and on denying adversaries access to these spectrum roadways through electronic warfare. Today’s increasingly complex security environment demands nothing less than relentless innovation. Relentless innovation, in turn, demands a relentless focus on increased mission effectiveness and efficiency. These are important engines for change as DoD improves its approaches to spectrum access. The successful continuation of spectrum partnerships will promote new ways of leaning forward to innovate based on trust, collaboration, and sound engineering. Sound engineering and a clear understanding of technical challenges are a must to ensure success. Moving military systems from one segment of spectrum to another and sharing spectrum are complex tasks. Accomplishing these tasks take investment and time to research, develop, test, deploy and sustain systems to ensure no loss of mission capabilities. Finding win-win solutions is the challenge. These are areas where DoD needs assistance:

  • Spectrum Effectiveness and Efficiency: Operating requirements drive effectiveness and efficiency. This means addressing unique differentiators that distinguish the Department from its commercial counterparts, including the length of time that technology investments remain in operation. This can be decades for satellite-based operations. Warfighters must also be able to operate in austere, hostile environments with anti-jamming capabilities.
  • Increased flexibility: Increased flexibility means more maneuverability across the spectrum. In short, DoD should ensure spectrally efficient, flexible, adaptable, and agile capabilities are available to ensure we meet our missions. Increased flexibility allows the Department to better posture itself for a more contested, congested future IT environment.
  • Better partnerships: Partnerships help DoD to ensure that we are developing sound engineering solutions together and contributing to improved policies to improve our access to spectrum. Partners improve intellectual capacity to develop sound spectrum solutions.
  • Technology innovation: This is a necessary catalyst for change, and innovation will be critical to help the Department adapt to the increased demand signal for spectrum for the IoT. DoD must maintain a technological edge over potential adversaries. This requires an approach informed by improved sound engineering. We are pressing forward on this front.
  • The Department’s ability to exploit new spectrum-based technologies – to “out innovate” its adversaries – will be a key factor to determine who wins the next fight. Spectrum access will become more congested, and spectrum access challenges will also grow in complexity and intensity of use, increasing how spectrum access is contested. Research and Development (R&D) efforts are an important pillar of this change that is needed to identify, develop, and ultimately deploy groundbreaking technologies that advance U.S. military capability.