APG hosts 2nd annual CEMA Conference

Electronic Warfare systems are displayed during the 2nd Annual Cyber Electromagnetic Activity (CEMA) conference held at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland Oct. 17-20, 2016. | U.S. Army photo

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – With the theme of “Achieving Overmatch through the Convergence of Cyber, Signal, Electronic Warfare, Intelligence, and Space Capabilities,” on their mind, more than 800 Soldiers, joint partners industry members and partnering nations descended upon Aberdeen Proving Ground, for the Second Annual Cyber Electromagnetic Activity, or CEMA, Conference.

The CEMA conference, which is co-sponsored by the Army and the Association of Old Crows , was held from Oct 17-20 with a series of keynote speeches, technical sessions, networking opportunities and capability displays.

Exploring how the Army can provide the joint force with multiple options in the areas of electronic warfare, cyber, and electromagnetic spectrum operations and establishing the best ways to integrate these efforts with multiple partners, while operating across multiple domains, and presenting adversaries with multiple dilemmas was the overarching purpose of the conference according to Col. Marty Hagenston, Project Manager Electronic Warfare & Cyber which hosted the conference.

“The group met to discuss all things CEMA from user sessions designed to identify current issues and introduce initial problem solving amongst field unit representatives, system developers and associated policy makers,” he said.

In just its second iteration, the CEMA conference has quickly grown in popularity with an approximate boost of 60 percent in attendance to now include participation from all major Army Commands. Due to the evolving threat, the need for the CEMA community to step to the forefront of DOD planning is essential.

Forces to be reckoned with

“This October marked 15 years of persistent conflict where the Army has enjoyed a distinct technological advantage in its fight against terrorism and in the conduct of counter-insurgency operations,” said Mike Ryan, Deputy Project Manager Electronic Warfare & Cyber and conference chairman.

“Today, we are on the brink of a new era of great power competition conflict. With a resurgent Russia and an escalating China, a civil war in Syria with international implications, as well as Iran and North Korea steadily flexing their military presence — all are forces to be reckoned with.

Soldiers, government officials and industry had an opportunity to collaborate on CEMA challenges and receive capability demos during networking breaks held throughout the four day event at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, Oct. 14-20, 2016. | U.S. Army photo
Soldiers, government officials and industry had an opportunity to collaborate on CEMA challenges and receive capability demos during networking breaks held throughout the four day event at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, Oct. 14-20, 2016. | U.S. Army photo

“All are employing advanced electronic warfare and cyber capabilities at a rapid rate. Given these recent developments from prospective near-peer adversaries, the Army must prioritize competing overmatch capabilities against limited resources. An innovative approach to this problem is to develop an effective enterprise capability convergence of cyber, signal, electronic warfare, intelligence, information operations, and space capabilities. The idea of capability convergence as a combat multiplier is the basis for this year’s conference theme.”

Laying the groundwork for the conference keynote speakers including Maj. Gen. Bruce Crawford, commanding general, Communications Electronics Command and APG senior commander, Maj. Gen. Kirk Vollmecke, Program Executive Officer-Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors, and others addressed their organization’s roles and perspectives in tackling CEMA challenges.

During his welcoming comments, Crawford emphasized that investments need to be made in the future to address the new strategic realities. He also implored the CEMA community to ensure they don’t miss the opportunities available because the window for the future is closing.

In a budget constrained environment choices will need to be made regarding the best solutions available to address CEMA challenges.

“Something no one wants to talk about is divestiture. What we need to do is identify what we have to stop doing and transition that funding into what we need to do going forward to find comprehensive solutions,” Crawford said.

Generating the questions and areas that the conference should focus on was paramount in Vollmecke’s comments. Additionally, he left the audience with some key concepts to consider.

“In the past we achieved ‘overmatch’ – looking into the future that may no longer be an achievable objective with the different view to impose spectrum dilemmas to create windows of superiority for friendly forces,” Vollmecke said. “We must present integrated EW, SIGINT, and Cyber capabilities across multiple domains to outpace our adversaries.”

Best pacing the threat

In discussing how to best pace the threat, Vollmecke suggested a changed approach that emphasizes incremental fielding, adaptable prototyping, rapid engineering/integration, and small and frequent software releases with direct user and stakeholder involvement. “We must pursue a different acquisition model for aerial ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance), EW, and offensive cyberspace operations. Our cultural mindset must place greater emphasis on ‘deliver now.’”

Vollmecke stressed that PEO IEW&S’ core activities are in the middle of rapidly congested and contested electro-magnetic spectrum. “EW capabilities have atrophied and we must make the investment in our people and re-establish those critical strategic relationships and industry support partnerships. We must also recognize that we are in competition with the commercial sector and we must adapt to it.”

With an eye to toward the research and development arena, Henry Muller, director, Communications-Electronic Research Development and Engineering Center, said that CEMA domain advancements are often not due to novel technologies, but rather new applications of existing technologies. “At CERDEC, we look to leverage the best of breed technology as part of an integrated capability set and anticipate and mitigate known operational gaps and challenges through novel applications of technologies.”

“During the past year, the Army has emphasized cyber and CEMA situational understanding rather than only situational awareness,” Muller said. “We used to look at ‘what do we know,’ approaching it as ‘now that we know, how will the mission be effected and what are we going to do about it.”

Army Rapid Capabilities Office

The conference also served as a platform for leaders to discuss the recent standup of the Army Rapid Capabilities Office, which aims to accelerate critical capabilities to the field to overcome urgent and emerging threats. Col. Keith Hirschman, director of Emerging Technologies, Army Rapid Capabilities Office, described the office’s initial focus areas of cyber, electronic warfare, survivability and positioning, navigation and timing, as well as its unique focus on capabilities that will deliver operational effects within one to five years — a mission that is complementary to both the Army Rapid Equipping Force and longer-term programs of record.

“Where the Rapid Capabilities Office comes into play can be summed up in ‘three Ds:’ demand, decision-makers and development,” Hirschman said. “Our demand signal comes from the Combatant Commanders and what they need to achieve overmatch in their areas of responsibility. We will present a full-range of potential solutions to the Army’s decision-makers. Their decisions will drive projects undertaken by the Rapid Capabilities Office, allowing us to reach for high-risk, high-reward capabilities. Finally, development will be needed, in most cases, as we’re not buying items off the shelf for immediate fielding — we will work with program managers, the Army Science & Technology community and industry to adapt, enhance and integrate selected technologies.”

Due to the criticality of the CEMA mission and the success of the first two conferences, plans are already in the works for a larger conference next year.

Story by Brandon Pollacheck, PEO IEW&S