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The Pentagon knows electronic warfare is going to be an important part of any great power competition with China and Russia, but it also knows it’s running a bit behind.

A Government Accountability Office audit report evaluated how DOD is positioning itself to develop EMS and EMS operations, or EMSO, superiority. The US Defense Department is failing to address challenges related to managing the electromagnetic spectrum due to lack of adequate governance and oversight. According to the audit, not only did DOD neglect to implement prior EMS strategies from 2013 and 2017, it’s also at risk of missing the mark for its new EMS plan, according to 

DOD’s Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority Strategy, issued in October, was created in order to ensure warfighters are able to operate freely within the EMS to conduct operations. The DOD blamed the rise of mobile systems and digital technology for placing “enormous strain on the available spectrum for DOD’s command, control, and communication needs.”  

The strategy attested to the need for freedom of action in the electromagnetic spectrum, at the time, place, and parameters of DOD’s choosing as a required precursor to the successful conduct of operations in all domains.

Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, outlines future steps to dominate the electromagnetic spectrum and rebuild the Pentagon’s electronic warfare prowess. Hyten bestows a great deal of responsibility upon the services. He claims that there are three broad categories in which the department must make progress to advance the new electromagnetic spectrum superiority strategy. Those categories are the joint world, the armed services and industry.

“We have to be able to effectively fight and win the electromagnetic spectrum fight right from the beginning — that is, electronic warfare in every domain,” Hyten said. Hyten chairs the Joint Staff’s Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations Cross-Functional Team, and, in addition, is the “senior designated official for EMSO, electromagnetic spectrum operations, in the Department of Defense,” according to