Electromagnetic Spectrum a Critical Defense Concern

Globe connectionsIn August 2018, the U.S. Air Force leadership and educational center, Air University, held an inaugural summit of the Electromagnetic Defense Task Force (EMDT) to consider defense issues involving technology in the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS). EMS involves any “physically observable activities such as visible light, lasers and unobservable phenomena such as microwaves and electromagnetic energy.” EMS is produced both naturally and artificially, and impacts all aspects of warfare and defense. As such, it is crucial for the U.S. to maintain a technological lead in the domain of EMS.

The EMDT Summit brought together military and civilian thought leaders in electromagnetic pulses, lasers and optics, directed energy, high-power microwaves, geomagnetic disturbance and EMS management. The finding of this summit are presented in the 2018 Report of the Electromagnetic Defense Task Force.

The purpose of the conference was to address the broad spectrum of EMS threats to the U.S. both industrially and militarily, and to develop strategies for the U.S. to regain a technological advantage to mitigate those threats. EMS has become a recent issue of concern because of the near universal use of electromagnetically sensitive silica-based technology; because adversaries are becoming increasingly capable of exploiting technological vulnerabilities; and because there is a new recognition that institutional knowledge regarding our understanding of EMS must be conveyed to a broader audience and in a broader context.

The report notes that educating all sectors regarding key vulnerabilities is crucial to safeguarding against EMS threats. A free and secure EMS is critical to the continuity of military, government, and commerce; and, the ability to identify hostile actors is necessary for strategic deterrence.

The report discusses four key issues:

  1. Electromagnetic pulse and geomagnetic disturbances
  2. Strategic threats arising from adversary 5G networks
  3. Directed energy and high-powered microwave systems
  4. Electromagnetic spectrum policy, management and organization.

The report contends that immediate action is crucial, and an executive order would help establish the necessary urgency for support and research of EMS issues.

The next summit will be held in April of 2019.


Some of the links in this report require institutional access, click here to read the full report.

More resources and reports on electromagnetic spectrum in the U.S. can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL).

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