Classified Naval Postgraduate School Study Explores Convergence of Electronic and Cyber Warfare

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) commissioned the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) to conduct a study exploring the convergence of electronic and cyber warfare. The TS/SCI-classified study has created a roadmap to meet the technological and acquisitional challenges that are currently faced in achieving dominance in the Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS). 

“The focus of this study was mainly technology, essentially the vision for the convergence of electronic and cyber warfare,” U.S. Navy Cmdr. Chad Bollmann, director of the university’s Center for Cyber Warfare (CCW) said. “We identified many current gaps – including some doctrinal and authorities ones – and recommended areas for investment with approximate resource estimates, timelines and, most importantly, how the gaps and proposed solutions interact. Having the best technology is the first step, but you also have to acquire, integrate and practice that technology if they’re going to be effective.” 

The study was commissioned by ONR’s Code 31 – Electronic Warfare [EW] section to guide technological investment by the Navy over the near to mid-term. The interdisciplinary research team involved worked closely with Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific (NWIC-PAC)’s deep EW bench over the last year to complete the work.

“NPS is by nature joint and interdisciplinary,” Bollmann said. “Our ability to combine both the deep academic expertise plus the military practitioners in uniform with diverse kinds of Fleet experience and Fleet connections really is why we were chosen to conduct this study.”

Though the study reviewed a number of technologies and their platforms, siloing became a major focus of the research. It was noted that the two different disciplines – electronic and cyber warfare – have historically resulted in separate communities with different practices throughout the military.

“At some point, these [conceptual] models become obstacles and systems don’t talk with each other,” Bollmann said. “At the end of the day, these are distinctions our adversaries are not making.”

One of the conclusions drawn by the study was that a key component in overcoming siloing is a concurrent realignment of acquisition processes to fully enable the convergence of EW and Cyber. Acquisition models currently in use are structured around unique programs which produce a capability for a specific user community. It is expected that a more modular approach would yield interoperable capabilities that could be integrated to achieve combined effects.

“Building to common Technical Reference Frameworks (TRFs) to produce highly integrable and interoperable capabilities would be a good beginning,” Howard Pace, Professor of the Practice of Acquisition Management in NPS’ Department of Defense Management, said. “TRFs are not new and are widely used in commercial software production. This is a good model to follow since most EW and Cyber capabilities are software-intensive. Converging EW and cyber capabilities will require a culture shift away from doing what we have always done in the past, of saying that it is too much risk or that it isn’t specifically for my customer. In an era of Great Power Competition, I do not think we can afford that.”