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SASC NDAA Tasks Top Scientists To Suss Out Electronic Warfare Fixes

Posted by Colin Clark on


Next Generation Jammer image

WASHINGTON: A little known group of top America scientists known as JASON will, if the Senate Armed Services Committee has its way, perform a major analysis of US and allied Electronic Warfare capabilities and recommend how the US can improve this crucial element of warfare.

Why is the SASC doing this: “The committee recognizes that the United States has a significant comparative military disadvantage (emphasis added) against our peer competitors in aspects of the electronic warfare mission and in the conduct of joint electromagnetic spectrum operations.” Breaking D readers, of course, have long known about America’s weaknesses in EW and across the spectrum.

JASON is one of those entities you’d have to make up if they didn’t already exist. It’s a self-selecting group of top scientists, heavily weighted toward Nobel Prize-winning physicists in the past, who provide independent advice to the US military. They mostly get together in the summer — presumably after classes end — and produce reports on a wide array of topics, most of them classified.

The committee, clearly aware of JASON’s capabilities, gave them an enormous task, to “produce an independent assessment of: U.S. electronic warfare strategies, programs, order of battle, and doctrine and adversary strategies, programs, order of battle, doctrine, including recommendations for improvement.”

This would seem to suggest that earlier OSD and service efforts to figure out the way ahead on EW haven’t satisfied a range of senior officials. The JASON report would be due by Oct. 1 next year, should this make it through conference.

F-16s and F-35 at RAF Lakenheath

Airpower and Artificial Intelligence

There were several other items in the SASC’s National Defense Authorization Act report that may have ripple effects, as the JASON study will if it proceeds.

The Air Force would have to provide a report on its erstwhile Fighter Roadmap. “The report shall describe the Air Force’s plans for the fourth-generation fighter fleet and plans for converting fighter units to the F–35,” the SASC report says. “To the extent feasible, the report should discuss the criteria to be used for future basing operations of F–35 aircraft.” Mobile basing is, of course an increasingly important push as the US military realizes how vulnerable its immobile — if hardened — forward air bases are.

The other issue that may reverberate through DoD is a call for creation of an “entity” to consider the ethical, legal and political affects of “artificial intelligence, unmanned aerial vehicles, facial recognition software, surveillance capabilities, and biological enhancements.”

The SASC “urges” undersecretary of Defense for research and engineering, Mike Griffin, to “consider the anticipated application of emerging technologies in combat and non-combat scenarios.” And the Defense Department should outline how to use these technologies. Why? The letter signed by more than 3,000 Google employees protesting their company’s work on the non-lethal Project Maven, as well as other warnings by scientists and technologists, are clearly driving this.

The Senate is supposed to consider the NDAA and various proposed amendments this week.

What do you think?