POC Keynote Speaker: Dr. William Conley on the Future of Electronic Warfare

“If they say they want to dominate something and we say we want to dominate something–it is highly unlikely that both of us simultaneously can achieve dominance. The best that can be achieved in such a contested environment is “superiority.”

Dr. William "Bill" Conley, Deputy Director of Electronic Warfare, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (AT&L) of U.S. Department of Defense
Dr. William “Bill” Conley, Deputy Director of Electronic Warfare, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (AT&L) of U.S. Department of Defense

Electronic warfare is a pressing issue that the Pentagon has identified as part of the “third offset”–which is a collection of battlefield tech that the U.S. military has to master in order to get a leg-up on its competition, our adversaries, or their enemies.

According to the July 2015 report, 21st Century Operations in a Complex Electromagnetic Environment the United States military is “no longer the overwhelming leader in these technologies.” Whether this is for certain, Dr. William Conley, Deputy Director of Electronic Warfare, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (AT&L) of U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), will speak at the Potomac Officer’s Club Electronic Warfare Forum on the morning of Sept. 12.

In a past statement on EW, Conley has been quoted as saying: “We–in my opinion–basically got to where we are in electronic warfare after 25 years of inattention. We will get out of it with 25 years of attention.”

Conley is running point for the Defense Department’s EW campaign, spearheading an implementation plan that will provide specifics on where programs are going, with exact technical specifications of next-generation capabilities. The challenge, he said, is avoiding “prescriptive” documents that say that something must be done in an exact way.

“Those documents, they stifle innovation. It is a delicate dance–in full disclosure–to make sure we get this right.”

Electronic Warfare is a complicated field with the threats and technology continuously evolving, he adds. The U.S., along with countries like Russia and China, project their spheres of influence by setting up “no-go zones” to extend their area of operations. As the Army’s battle concept of EW develops, Conley speculates that its plans will depend on the ability to network and share data.

“It is going to be going in some way, shape or form over a wireless link,” he said. “How are we contesting it? How are we protecting it? How are we accessing it?”
According to him, China’s military “calls for information dominance in any battle,” including that of space, counter-space, cyberspace and electronic warfare.

“If they say they want to dominate something and we say we want to dominate something–it is highly unlikely that both of us simultaneously can achieve dominance. The best that can be achieved in such a contested environment is “superiority.”

The Defense Department is boosting its EW research and development funding to nearly $5 billion per year, he added, but that “pales in comparison” to wireless-communication companies, many of which spend billions to ensure that their signals and transmissions reach the customer. Conley says it is time to tap into their innovation.

“If it was 40-50 years ago, the Defense Department led the world in electronics…true innovation now occurs in the private sector. We have to be very deliberate in how and where we choose to be innovative in our defense–unique dollars–and we have to make sure we have the tech base to feed that material.”

It is Conley’s recommendation that industry members bring their ideas forward, working toward the end goal of going above and beyond what is currently available today.

“One of my goals is to make sure that as we lay out (where are going in the next five years) we are asking for things that are A: possible and B: cutting edge,” says Conley. “If we ask the appropriate questions, we can get to something that is both achievable and gives us an advantage.”

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See also:
U.S. Army COMMUNICATIONS-ELECTRONICS RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT AND ENGINEERING CENTER Leadership
DoD PUTS ‘FOOT ON GAS PEDAL’ TO CATCH UP ON ELECTRONIC WARFARE 

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