Electronic Warfare in the US Army

Ten years ago the US Army did not have an Electronic Warfare capability. But the Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device (RCIED) changed that from nothing, to a new branch.

For the last nine years men and women have volunteered to be reclassed into Career Field 29, Electronic Warfare. And the promotion rates have been pretty low, job satisfaction low, and moral low.

For the Officer Separation Board, the Functional Area 29 Officers were hit hardest. And for the last two promotion boards to Major, the FA29 Officers were distinguished with the lowest promotion rate of any Branch or Functional Area, two years running.

The EW equipment that was purchased for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been put back into the warehouse, or in some cases surplussed off to other government agencies. So the EW professionals have no tools, and represent a skill set that Commanders are not used to dealing with in a peacetime situation.

Hence the reason for the most cuts and lowest promotion rate, the Army needs EW, but at the same time doesn’t have equipment for the personnel they have, so it is easy to cut the personnel because until they go to war and the equipment gets released from a warehouse, they are essentially just another person on the books. A person who could be replaced by a trigger puller of a lower rank, or not replaced at all if the formation must shrink because of Congressional mandates.

The pilot program for FA29 Officers got started in 2011, and the Army expects to have its first dedicated Jamming System by 2022. So the situation will likely continue with the current trends well into the future. The Army just announced it was pulling the FA30 “Information Operations” Officers from Brigade Combat Teams, to save the Army about 30 positions. I expect the FA29 Officers to go next as three 29E enlisted positions have already been cut.

The Army will continue to shrink, 17,000 cut last year and 15,000 to cut this year. As it shrinks it will follow the historic trend of cutting enablers first, hoping that the capability the enabler brings will be provided by another unit or service in the future. Of course that has proven to be a valid assumption based on history. When the Army needed EW it was the Navy and Air Force who provided personnel until the Army could stand up its own training program. When the Air Force dropped Electronic Attack as a core competency the Navy picked up the slack by fielding the Growler. Even the Information Operations professionals were originally pulled from PSYOP and Civil Affairs.

It isn’t smart though. The reason that all those enablers were pushed to Brigades in the first place was to stop Infantrymen from dying, and from the Army experiencing strategic failure due to tactical successes. The Army is refusing to learn from the past, and is repeating it.

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