In late July, the United States Strategic Command revealed it had activated the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations Centre.
Known as the JEC, a press release announcing the news said that the centre “will serve as the heart of the Department of Defence’s Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations.” The press release continued that the JEC aims “to consolidate and streamline electromagnetic spectrum management.”
Managing the use of the spectrum across the US military is vital given that this resource is expected to suffer congestion in the future. This congestion will be driven largely by the uptake of fifth-generation (5G) cellular communications protocols over the coming decade. 5G Americas, an advocacy organisation, said in April 2023 that it expects global 5G connections to reach 5.9 billion by late 2027. The same organisation said that 5G connections stood at just over one billion at the end of 2022.
The dynamics of a contested spectrum can be seen daily in the Ukraine theatre of operations. As Armada has chronicled, both Russian and Ukrainian forces are fighting preserve their use of the spectrum. Meanwhile, both occupiers and defenders are working to prevent their adversary’s use of this resource.
“The centre’s primary objective will be to ensure the availability, integrity, and resilience of the electromagnetic spectrum, enabling uninterrupted communication, information sharing, and precision targeting capabilities for US forces,” the press release added.
Brigadier General AnnMarie Anthony, the JEC’s director, told Armada that the unit will be headquartered at Offutt airbase, Nebraska, collocated with US STRATCOM (Strategic Command) headquarters. Placing the JEC under US STRATCOM’s responsibility reflects an executive decision. On 25th April, President Joe Biden designated US STRATCOM as operational lead for the electromagnetic spectrum enterprise. The enterprise encompasses all elements of the DOD involved in electromagnetic spectrum operations. An additional two organisations join the JEC: These are the Joint Centre for Electromagnetic Readiness (JECR) at Nellis airbase, Nevada and the Joint Electromagnetic Warfare Centre (JEWC) at Lackland airbase, Texas.
The JEC will have an important doctrinal and training role, says Gen. Anthony providing “force-wide training and education and continual force and capability assessment.” The JEC will standardise and accredit “joint EMS operations education curriculum, and accreditation of deployment certification standards and identifying EMS operations deficiencies, risks, and capability requirements.” The US DOD’s respective combatant commands will continue to plan, coordinate and execute their spectrum operations. These actions will be taken as per their prevailing authorities and doctrines.
Towards IOC and FOC
Gen. Anthony continued that the JEC, JECR and JEWC will increase their staffing levels to support their responsibilities with an initial operational capability to be declared by the third quarter of 2023. She added that a full operational capability is expected by 2025. Alongside the JEC’s day-to-day responsibilities, the organisation will work closely with academia, industry and US allies “to exchange information, develop best practice and stay at the forefront of electromagnetic spectrum operations.” Gen. Anthony added that “as technology advances and the spectrum becomes increasingly congested, the JEC will continue to evolve and grow, ensuring our forces maintain a decisive edge in an era of complex and evolving threats.”
by Dr. Thomas Withington