Electronic Warfare:

DOD Actions Needed to Strengthen Management and Oversight

GAO-12-479: Published: Jul 9, 2012. Publicly Released: Jul 9, 2012.

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What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) developed an electronic warfare strategy, but it only partially addressed key characteristics that GAO identified in prior work as desirable for a national or defense strategy. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 requires DOD to submit to the congressional defense committees an annual report on DOD’s electronic warfare strategy for each of fiscal years 2011 through 2015. DOD issued its fiscal year 2011 and 2012 strategy reports to Congress in October 2010 and November 2011, respectively. GAO found that DOD’s reports addressed two key characteristics: (1) purpose, scope, and methodology and (2) problem definition and risk assessment. However, DOD only partially addressed four other key characteristics of a strategy, including (1) resources, investments, and risk management and (2) organizational roles, responsibilities, and coordination. For example, the reports identified mechanisms that could foster coordination across the department and identified some investment areas, but did not fully identify implementing parties, delineate roles and responsibilities for managing electronic warfare across the department, or link resources and investments to key activities. Such characteristics can help shape policies, programs, priorities, resource allocation, and standards in a manner that is conducive to achieving intended results and can help ensure that the department is effectively managing electronic warfare.

DOD has taken steps to address a critical electronic warfare management gap, but it has not established a departmentwide governance framework for electronic warfare. GAO previously reported that effective and efficient organizations establish objectives and outline major implementation tasks. In response to a leadership gap for electronic warfare, DOD is establishing the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Control Center under U.S. Strategic Command as the focal point for joint electronic warfare. However, because DOD has yet to define specific objectives for the center, outline major implementation tasks, and define metrics and timelines to measure progress, it is unclear whether or when the center will provide effective departmentwide leadership and advocacy for joint electronic warfare. In addition, key DOD directives providing some guidance for departmentwide oversight of electronic warfare have not been updated to reflect recent changes. For example, DOD’s primary directive concerning electronic warfare oversight was last updated in 1994 and identifies the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics as the focal point for electronic warfare. The directive does not define the center’s responsibilities in relation to the office, including those related to the development of the electronic warfare strategy and prioritizing investments. In addition, DOD’s directive for information operations, which is being updated, allocates electronic warfare responsibilities based on the department’s previous definition of information operations, which had included electronic warfare as a core capability. DOD’s oversight of electronic warfare capabilities may be further complicated by its evolving relationship with computer network operations, which is also an information operations-related capability. Without clearly defined roles and responsibilities and updated guidance regarding oversight responsibilities, DOD does not have reasonable assurance that its management structures will provide effective departmentwide leadership for electronic warfare activities and capabilities development and ensure effective and efficient use of its resources.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD has committed billions of dollars to developing, maintaining, and employing warfighting capabilities that rely on access to the electromagnetic spectrum. According to DOD, electronic warfare capabilities play a critical and potentially growing role in ensuring the U.S. military’s access to and use of the electromagnetic spectrum. GAO was asked to assess the extent to which DOD (1) developed a strategy to manage electronic warfare and (2) planned, organized, and implemented an effective governance structure to oversee its electronic warfare policy and programs and their relationship to cyberspace operations. GAO analyzed policies, plans, and studies related to electronic warfare and cyberspace operations and interviewed cognizant DOD officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that DOD should (1) include in its future electronic warfare strategy reports to Congress certain key characteristics, including performance measures, key investments and resources, and organizational roles and responsibilities; (2) define objectives and issue an implementation plan for the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Control Center; and (3) update key departmental guidance to clearly define oversight roles, responsibilities, and coordination for electronic warfare management, and the relationship between electronic warfare and cyberspace operations. DOD generally concurred with these recommendations, except that the strategy should include performance measures. GAO continues to believe this recommendation has merit.

For more information, contact Brian J. Lepore at (202) 512-4523 or leporeb@gao.gov.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's management, oversight, and coordination of electronic warfare policy and programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, in concert with the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, as appropriate, to update key departmental guidance regarding electronic warfare-including DOD Directives 3222.4 (Electronic Warfare and Command and Control Warfare Countermeasures) and 3600.01 (Information Operations)-to clearly define oversight roles and responsibilities of and coordination among the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics; and the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Control Center. Additionally, the directives should clarify, as appropriate, the oversight roles and responsibilities for the integration of electronic warfare and cyberspace operations, specifically computer network operations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: On 3/19/13, DOD reported that the Department agreed to update key departmental guidance regarding electronic warfare, including DOD Directives 3222.4 (Electronic Warfare and Command and Control Warfare Countermeasures) and 3600.01 (Information Operations), to clearly define oversight roles and responsibilities of and coordination among the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics; and the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Control Center. Additionally, the Department agreed that the directives should clarify, as appropriate, the oversight roles and responsibilities for the integration of electronic warfare and cyberspace operations, specifically computer network operations. On 4/3/13, DOD reported that revisions to DOD Directive (DODD) 3222.4 and DODD 3600.01 are both currently in staffing. DODD 3222.4 is in formal coordination (Washington Headquarters Service issuance process step 3A) with a suspense for coordination by 4/1/13. DODD 3600.1 has been approved by USD (P) and is being staffed to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Responsibility for the integration of electronic warfare and cyberspace operations is directed under DODD 3600.01. Additionally, in January 2013, the Department published CJCSI 3320.01D (Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations) and CJCSM 3320.04 (Electronic Warfare in Support of Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations). CJCSI 3320.01D provides policy for implementing JEMSO. CJCSM 3320.04 provides planners, decision makers, and operators with guidance for conducting electronic warfare in support of joint operations.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's management, oversight, and coordination of electronic warfare policy and programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander of Strategic Command to define the objectives of the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Control Center and issue an implementation plan outlining major implementation tasks and timelines to measure progress.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: On 3/19/13, DOD reported that the Department agreed to define the objectives of the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Control Center and issue an implementation plan outlining major implementation tasks and timelines to measure progress. On 4/3/13, DOD reported that the U.S. Strategic Command implemented its "Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations (JEMSO) Concept of Operations (CONOP)" on 10/1/12. The JEMSO CONOP details the authorities, responsibilities, and organizational construct of the JEMSO office (J3E), which will fulfill the role of the previously envisioned Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Control Center.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's management, oversight, and coordination of electronic warfare policy and programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, in coordination with the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and Strategic Command, and others, as appropriate, to include at a minimum the following information in the fiscal years 2013 through 2015 strategy reports for electronic warfare:(1) Performance measures to guide implementation of the strategy and help ensure accountability. These could include milestones to track progress toward closing the 34 capability gaps identified by DOD studies.(2) Resources and investments necessary to implement the strategy, including those related to key activities, such as developing electronic warfare organizational structures and leadership.(3) The parties responsible for implementing the department's strategy, including specific roles and responsibilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: On 3/19/13, DOD reported that it continues to refine the annual strategy reports for electronic warfare and will expand upon resourcing plans and organization roles; however, the department stated that the strategy was not intended to be prescriptive with performance measures. On 4/3/13, DOD reported that the Department is preparing to release its FY 2013 annual report to Congress on the Electronic Warfare Strategy of the Department of Defense. The resources and investments necessary to implement the strategy are described therein, and will be updated in subsequent annual reports. The annual report also describes the organizational structure overseeing development of the Department's electronic warfare strategy, requirements, capabilities, program, and projects. The roles and responsibilities of individual offices will be addressed with the reissuance of DOD Directive 3222.04, Electronic Warfare and Command and Control Warfare Countermeasures. The report informs Congress and guides the Department's analyses and processes supporting annual budgetary and capabilities review. It does not include performance measures. The Joint Staff is developing a National Military Strategy for Electronic Warfare and USSTRATCOM is conducting an electronic warfare capabilities assessment that will provide near-term investment recommendations and will help scope the resources and investments required to implement the strategy.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD’s management, oversight, and coordination of electronic warfare policy and programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, in concert with the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, as appropriate, to update key departmental guidance regarding electronic warfare—including DOD Directives 3222.4 (Electronic Warfare and Command and Control Warfare Countermeasures) and 3600.01 (Information Operations)—to clearly define oversight roles and responsibilities of and coordination among the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics; and the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Control Center. Additionally, the directives should clarify, as appropriate, the oversight roles and responsibilities for the integration of electronic warfare and cyberspace operations, specifically computer network operations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD’s management, oversight, and coordination of electronic warfare policy and programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander of Strategic Command to define the objectives of the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Control Center and issue an implementation plan outlining major implementation tasks and timelines to measure progress.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD’s management, oversight, and coordination of electronic warfare policy and programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, in coordination with the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and Strategic Command, and others, as appropriate, to include at a minimum the following information in the fiscal years 2013 through 2015 strategy reports for electronic warfare:(1) Performance measures to guide implementation of the strategy and help ensure accountability. These could include milestones to track progress toward closing the 34 capability gaps identified by DOD studies.(2) Resources and investments necessary to implement the strategy, including those related to key activities, such as developing electronic warfare organizational structures and leadership.(3) The parties responsible for implementing the department’s strategy, including specific roles and responsibilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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