Red Electrons: Army Rapid Capabilities Office Fights Russian GPS Jamming, Cyber, EW

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December 19, 2016 | Originally published by Date Line: December 19 on

The Army’s new Rapid Capabilities Office is focused like a laser on Russian threats to Army networks: both cyber attack (hacking) and electronic warfare (jamming), in particular against the GPS signal on which US forces rely.

I’ve written before that a $100 million boost to electronic warfare might be an early priority for the new RCO, whose charter is to speed new equipment into service over a one to five-year time-frame, and whose agenda is personally set by Army Secretary Eric Fanning and the Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley. What I did not realize until I sat down with Maj. Gen. Walter Piatt, the RCO operations director, was how thoroughly EW, cyber, and GPS — three closely related fields — dominate that agenda.

Indeed, they dominate it to the exclusion of other high-profile Army projects. Air defense against small drones? “That’s not being run by our office, but we’re certainly watching the progress of that,” Piatt told me. The anti-ship variant of the ATACMS artillery missile? We’re “not in charge of that one, (but) certainly a supporting effort.”

Likewise, I hadn’t realized how closely the RCO was focused on Russia, as opposed to, say, China, North Korea, Iran, or the Islamic State. While Gen. Milley has explicitly said Russia is the most dangerous of the big five threats, it’s a fraught question whether that focus will survive the rise of Donald Trump. The President-Elect has expressed his admiration for Vladimir Putin and appointed a National Security Advisor, retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who says we should collaborate with Russia against the Islamic State, which they see as the real No. 1 threat.