Last month I wrote about LCDR Jack Curtis’s excellent article at the Bridge regarding the Navy’s need to resurrect its late Cold War-era skills for fighting in opposed electromagnetic environments. I also noted Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work’s commentaries along the same lines.
It isn’t often that electronic warfare topics like these get public attention. That’s extremely unfortunate given the centrality of electronic warfare to maritime combat. Granted, classification can be a barrier with respect to specifics. But the general principles are—and have always been—unclassified. I’m often amazed by how often electronic warfare considerations are overlooked in commentaries on modern warfare; such oversights detract from informed debate.
That’s why I truly appreciate the publication of good articles on electronic warfare in widely-read defense journals. This month’s Proceedings contains two pieces that meet this standard. Unfortunately, both lie behind the Naval Institute’s paywall. If you subscribe or have access to the magazine hardcopy, they are must-reads.
Jon Solomon has been contributing some graduate level pieces on naval warfare over at ID the last couple months.
One point he raises here about commanders operating in an EMCON or contested electronic environment is that by practicing it, you foster a mission command atmosphere. That is, tell your subordinates what you want them to accomplish, in terms of an end state, not every tiny little step for them to take. You want to foster initiative, and flexibility, in your subordinates. That has effectively become impossible in an era where the White House can call down to the individual ship (or squad leader, in the Army) and nag and give direction.
“Sorry, I can’t come to the phone right now” means a commander on the scene can use his own initiative and best judgement, all while denying the enemy information.
Our Navy used to be very, very good at this sort of thing. But we’ve fallen out of practice in the post Cold War era. And it’s high time we return to our proficiency there.