Electronic Warfare: Comprehensive Strategy Still Needed for Suppressing Enemy Air Defenses

GAO-03-51 Published: Nov 25, 2002. Publicly Released: Nov 25, 2002.
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U.S. military aircraft are often at great risk from enemy air defenses, and the services use specialized aircraft to neutralize or destroy them. In January 2001, GAO reported that a gap existed between the services' suppression capabilities and their needs and recommended that a comprehensive strategy was needed to fix the situation. In response to GAO's report, DOD emphasized that a major study underway at the time would provide the basis for a Department-wide strategy and lead to a balanced set of acquisition programs between the services. This report updates our previous work and assesses actions that DOD has taken to improve its suppression capabilities.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense To close the gap between enemy air defense suppression needs and capabilities, the Secretary of Defense should establish a coordinating entity.
Closed – Implemented
According to DOD to ensure a continuing mechanism for coordination systems acquisition with evolving strategies, the Under Secretary of Defense (AT&L) is restructuring elements of his staff which include an Assistant Director of Systems Integration for Electronic Warfare, to oversee an Integrated Product Team process to formulate comprehensive systems-of-systems architectures across all electronic warfare mission areas, including the area of defense suppression. The Assistant Director will work closely with the Counter Air Defense Joint Requirements Coordination Oversight Group, which the Services have already formed, to ensure effective harmonization of defense suppression strategies and requirements.
Department of Defense To close the gap between enemy air defense suppression needs and capabilities, the Secretary of Defense should establish a joint comprehensive strategy to address the gaps that need to be filled in the enemy air defense suppression mission. The strategy should provide the means to identify and prioritize promising technologies, determine the funding, time frames, and responsibilities needed to develop and acquire systems, and establish evaluation mechanisms to track progress in achieving objectives.
Closed – Not Implemented
According to DOD the electronic roadmap did not receive consensus support during final coordination. Efforts remain underway to resolve issues by key stakeholders and more aggressive actions are being taken to address the needed analysis and guidance for acquiring EW systems. Recommendations contained in the draft EW Roadmap that were fully supported within the department are being implemented. Other elements need additional updates before they are implemented. To facilitate the work, the VCJCS has issued a directive to USSTRATCOM to complete a time-urgent Capability Based Assessment. Renewed emphasis will function as the formulation and coordination venue for development of necessary organizational or materiel change recommendations for the EW Roadmap. Once it is updated a copy will be provided.

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