Is There Light at the End of the Tunnel or is that a Train Speeding Toward

14 Feb

In the U.S. DoD, everything electromagnetic these days is electromagnetic SPECTRUM, rather than EM control.  Or rather, EM control, while still required, has taken a backseat to spectrum control (maybe all the way to the trunk!).  All kinds of changes are upon us: from the desire to simply use new frequency management tools (EL-CID vs. the DD Form 1494); to the desire to field systems that determine their own spectrum use (dynamic spectrum access); to a hard-to-imagine (but necessary) convergence of spectrum, EW and cyber systems. I can remember the days when electromagnetic interference control and electromagnetic compatibility were much bigger issues than spectrum supportability.  I guess that was before the explosion of cell phones, wireless internet, 3G, 4G, LTE, etc.  Right now, within easy reach, I have a cell phone with Wi-Fi capability, an iPad with cellular and Wi-Fi capability, two laptops with Wi-Fi, several Bluetooth devices, a wireless mouse and keyboard, a cordless house phone and several other things I’m sure I’ll think of later.  Does a laser pointer count?

I recently watched a very interesting group interview on Defense News TV during which EW leaders from each of the four services discussed the convergence and integration of EW and cyber warfare using spectrum as the primary battleground, rather than the usual land, sea and air discussions.  Frankly, it was quite interesting to listen to these service leaders all discussing different priorities for operating in the EM spectrum (both offensively and defensively) rather than the usual “we fly”, “we sail” or “we hit the beach.”  In the end, they have many more similar requirements than differing ones.

So where IS the train heading?  Well, just from a minimal involvement in activities around the DoD spectrum community, considering the Presidents Spectrum Plan (identification of 500 MHz of spectrum for future commercial use, sharing proposals, CSMAC working groups, etc.); updates to spectrum regulations (like the requirement to do spectrum supportability risk assessments); reorganizations at the very highest levels (DoD CIO); an overall spectrum transformation (read:  GEMSIS) to widespread use of DSA and related technologies; not to mention the emerging relationship between spectrum and EW (we have a tendency to jam ourselves, particularly in anti-IED operations)—deep breath—it’s hard to tell where we’re heading.  But suffice it to say that it’s a very large train, with a lot of very important and very smart people running it and, at the end of the day, while it may be a very long trip, I believe there’s a light at the end.  And if there isn’t, I feel sorry for the train headed this way. I don’t think it stands a chance!

Pressure Cooker

30 Jan

I don’t think it’s any secret that the federal government has been the whipping boy for those that demand more and more of the electromagnetic spectrum for commercial uses.  As the largest government user of said spectrum, the Department of Defense (DoD) has become part of the government policy solutions to provide greater spectrum access to commercial users.  The following points represent several of the major reallocation actions that have resulted in a loss of overall spectrum access to government users (courtesy of the Defense Spectrum Office):

  • The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 and Balanced Budget Act of 1997 repurposed 237 MHz (under 5 GHz) of  federal spectrum – all used by DoD
  • Relocation from 1710-1755 MHz required 4 years as well as a DoD cost of $355M and a federal government cost ~$1B (reimbursed through the auction process).
    • FCC’s National Broadband Plan, NTIA’s 10-Year Plan & Presidential Memorandum (June 2010) called for 500 MHz (both federal and non-federal) to be reallocated for commercial broadband use this decade.

DoD studies completed so far include:

–     3500-3650 MHz Band:   Aegis Class/Ship-borne Radars – Air & Ballistic Missile Defense and Maritime Air Traffic Control Radars

–     1675-1710 MHz Band:  Fixed, Mobile, and Ship-borne Meteorological & Oceanographic Satellite Receivers

–     1755-1850 MHz Band:  Satellite Control, Aerial Telemetry, Air Combat Training Systems, Precision Guided Munitions, Small UAS, Tactical Radio Relay and EW systems (On-going)

The DoD is also participating in five working groups, established under the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC), that are in the process of discussing issues regarding the repurposing of 1695-1710 MHz and 1755-1850 MHz bands.  On top of that, the Congressional Bi-Partisan Task Force (Walden-Eshoo) was established to look at federal spectrum with the goal of identifying additional federal spectrum that can be brought to market.  Where does it end?

So, pressure on DoD spectrum continues to grow while the requirements for spectrum use increase (unmanned air vehicles and spectrum hogs, for example!).  The loss of access to any spectrum increases the risk that the U.S. military won’t be able to operate to their full capabilities both domestically and internationally.

Somehow, the DoD will have to balance meeting the operational requirements of the national defense strategy against commercial interests in a time of shrinking resources (DoD code word for MONEY!).  Spectrum sharing and the introduction of spectrum-efficient technologies and more capable spectrum management tools show great promise in overcoming these challenges.  Personally, knowing a lot of people that are involved in meeting this challenge, I’m confident that they’ll get it done.  It’ll be exciting to watch!

MIL-STD-461F Update Started!

18 Jan

Many of you have probably heard that MIL-STD-461F is in the process of being updated to what will be known as the “G” version.  The document, titled “Requirements for the Control of Electromagnetic Interference Characteristics of Subsystems and Equipment,” is a listing of the U.S. military’s primary interface requirements that are considered necessary to provide reasonable confidence that a particular subsystem or equipment (in compliance) will function within its designated design tolerances while operating in its intended electromagnetic environment (EME).  The document’s stated purpose is to establish “interface and associated verification requirements for the control of the electromagnetic interference (EMI) emission and susceptibility characteristics of electronic, electrical and electromechanical equipment and subsystems designed or procured for use by activities and agencies of the Department of Defense (DoD).”

As the lead organization for EMC standardization in the military, the Defense Spectrum Organization (DSO), a DISA component, is responsible for the document.  The actual preparing body, however, is the Air Force, with the committee led by the E3 Subject Matter Expert at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.  The initial Tri-Service committee meeting to update MIL-STD-461F was held on Nov 5 and Nov. 6, 2012.  The main discussion topics included the possible addition of ESD and lightning requirements as well as the elimination of testing “loopholes.”  We’ll post more specific information on the changes as they emerge.

One thing that the preparing activity has done already is to issue revalidation notices for the data item descriptions (DIDs) associated with the standard, which was originally issued on Nov. 30, 2007.  DIDs contain format and content preparation instructions for vendors on how to report compliance with standards’ requirements in general or, in our case, the requirements of MIL-STD-461, which contains three DIDs:

  • DI-EMCS-80199C, Notice 1, “Electromagnetic Interference Control Procedures (EMICP),” describes data required to evaluate the contractor’s design and techniques used to meet requirements for electromagnetic interference (EMI) control in subsystems and equipment.
  • DI-EMCS-80200C, Notice 1, “Electromagnetic Interference Test Report (EMITR),” describes the data and information necessary to evaluate compliance of a piece of equipment or subsystem with requirements of the standard, including discussions of recommended corrective actions, if needed.
  • Finally, DI-EMCS-80201C, Notice 1,” Electromagnetic Interference Test Procedures (EMITP),” describes the measurement procedures that will be used to demonstrate that a piece of equipment or subsystem complies with its contractual EMI requirements, including how the general test procedures in the standard will be applied to the specific equipment or subsystem.

The revalidated DIDs, dated Sept. 6, 2012, are available on the ASSIST now.  As always, the procuring activity should consider tailoring the individual requirements to be more or less severe depending on the design features of the intended platform and its mission in concert with personnel knowledgeable about electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) issues affecting platform integration.

Use of “Professional” Social Media

9 Jan

I’m a big user of LinkedIn; I even pay for an upgraded account.  I have found hundreds of great professional connections, use many relevant technical groups and have shared and received a lot of great technical information over the years using LinkedIn.  Many of you, I’m sure, use social media, including LinkedIn.  In fact, I suspect that most of you reading this post found it through LinkedIn, rather than on the site on which it was originally posted.  All of that is OK and this is not an ad for LinkedIn.  However, as such a big user of business-related social media, and as a business owner with hiring responsibilities (I just wish there was MORE hiring happening in our case!), I’d really like to get a couple of things off my chest.  If you’ll indulge me for a moment to detail some of my pet peeves….

  • Please put something specific in your title.  After all, what is a “consultant,” “owner” or “CEO” of XYZ enterprises?  Just like on resumes, nobody is going to sift through and read the details; you need a succinct summary right at the top.  In the case of professional social media, you better have some key words (like EMI or RF engineering) right in the title block.
  • Similar to a resume, people reading your profile want to know what you can do, not what your title is or some nebulous (albeit good) characteristics like “I’m a great team-builder.”  Very few people are hiring good team-builders, but they’d like an experienced EMC engineer with that trait.  I just did a quick search on LinkedIn for “interference”; here are a few of the items on the first page of hits:
    • Cofounder, President of ___ (something about the specialty of the company would help)
    • Creative and open-minded engineering professional (in what area(s)?)
    • Engineer (enough said!)
    • In that same search, still on the first page, here are a few that are much better:
      • Sr. Technical Lead Scientist/Program Manager – Electronic Warfare and Counter Directed Energy Weapons (beautiful!)
      • Firmware Engineer at Intel Corporation (minimal, but says enough)
      • Spectrum Management Expert. at ARABSAT (perfection in five words!)
      • Putting too much information, like multiple paragraphs on every single project you’ve ever worked on, is also a bit much.  Two printed pages (and however that translates to the online social media page) is really more than enough.  Nobody’s ever going to read it all!  If you really want to enlighten the world on all the great things you’ve done (and I’m being serious here), use hyperlinks and drive readers to your web page.
      • Build a decent profile of your experience, particularly if you intend on actually using the social media site for business purposes.  An empty profile with just a title always strikes me as a bit odd….why did you bother in the first place?

Just my two cents…guess we’ll see if anyone wants to pick apart my LinkedIn page.  Now get out there and update those profiles!

Where Do I Find…..?

4 Jan

I thought I’d take a break from my constant harangue on semi-technical topics such as the EMI problems with the use of Commercial Items, how to quantify the risk of using Commercial Items and how to produce a Spectrum Supportability Risk Assessment.  I say “semi-technical” because there’s very little EMI design or test detail (which I would consider to be VERY technical) and a lot more systems engineering/project management principles application – like risk assessment.  Instead I thought I’d try to provide some good information sources for all manner of things EM and/or spectrum related.  Here are a few websites that I find very useful and informative—I think you will too.  I’m sure most of them are familiar to many of you, but here we go just the same:

  1.  http://acc.dau.mil/e3 or acc.dau.mil/spectrum (no www!) – both links go to the same site, which is a Special Interest Area on the Defense Acquisition University site that is devoted to all things E3 and Spectrum, as it relates to the US DoD.  The site is sponsored by the Defense Spectrum Organization.  Full disclosure:  this is a shameless plug, as I am a primary contributor to the site!
  2. Interference Technology – http://www.interferencetechnology.com/ – do I really need to say anything about this site?  OK, it’s the premier EMC-related magazine in the world today and is a one-stop shopping site for news, suppliers, vendors, equipment, jobs, etc. as they relate to the EMC marketplace.  If you’re not subscribed to their newsletter, you’re missing out!
  3. Test and Measurement World – http://www.tmworld.com/ – from their website:  “Test & Measurement World is dedicated to test. We’re the go-to resource for engineers in the electronics original-equipment market as well as engineers in the electronics test, measurement, and inspection industries. TMWorld.com gives you vital information and peer-to-peer resources to do your job better, faster.
  4. AFCEA Signal Magazine Online – http://www.afcea.org/content/?q=signal – from their website:  “SIGNAL Magazine is the only international news magazine serving the critical information needs of government, military and industry decision-makers active in the fields of C4ISR, information security, intelligence, research and development, electronics, and homeland security.”
  5. In Compliance Magazine – http://incompliancemag.com/ One of the best known EMC trade journals, you’ll find a ton of great technical articles on EMC, static and product safety by renowned experts in those fields.  A good source of technical information.
  6. The RF Café – http://www.rfcafe.com/ – An interesting and eclectic site. According to their website, “RF Cafe currently enjoys the status of being one of the most highly rated engineering websites on the Internet. Typical weekday visitor counts are more than 7,000, and those are honest page hits that don’t include every downloaded image file on the page like many sites report. The attraction for our much-appreciated regular visitors is the laid-back atmosphere, the extensive collection of resources, and the daily fresh content.”
  7. The EMC Information Center – http://www.compliance-club.com/default.aspx – primarily UK-oriented, this is a great site for technical articles and training calendars.  They also have published journal that you can subscribe to.
  8. Compliance Engineering – http://www.ce-mag.com/ – from their site “Ce-mag.com is the world’s foremost online resource for international developments in regulatory compliance for electronics engineers. Ce-mag.com serves as an online extension of Compliance Engineering magazine, providing the same in-depth print resources readers have come to expect from the print publication.”

So there you have it, a quick and easy compendium of some of the best EMC information sites on the web today.  A safe and happy New Year to you all!

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