Defense-focused survey finds military personnel concerned about communications overrun by adversaries and lack of ongoing action

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Despite signs of improved US defense communications reliability, survey underscores growing concern among Department of Defense (DoD) personnel about overshooting US military communications capabilities by adversaries and lack of countermeasures being taken to meet this challenge.

Viasat Inc., a global communications company, has announced the results of its annual survey of the state of military communications conducted by the Government Business Council (GBC), the research arm of the Government Executive Media Group.

Despite signs of improved US defense communications reliability, survey underscores growing concern among Department of Defense (DoD) personnel about overshooting US military communications capabilities by adversaries and lack of countermeasures being taken to meet this challenge. A copy of the full investigation report is available here.

According to the Third Annual Survey, more than two-thirds (68%) of respondents said they believe adversaries close to peers will match or exceed U.S. military communications capabilities within five years, including 36% who believe it will. would happen within the next two years. Additionally, nearly three-quarters (73%) of DoD respondents believe U.S. defense communications technologies are on par with or behind those used by adversaries, representing an increase of 13 percentage points from compared to 2020.

These findings come despite the fact that DoD personnel also report greater reliability in their own experience with defense communications. More than half (52%) of respondents said they rarely or never experience a complete loss of connectivity, a significant increase from 34% in 2020 and 24% in 2019, indicating a steady improvement in the reliability of one year to the next. However, 85% of respondents still said they had experienced at least one such interruption in the past year.

Other key findings from the survey include:

Actions are not yet aligned with beliefs about improved communications and the value of business capability

  • 83% of respondents said they believe improving defense communications should be a top or high priority for their agency compared to other priorities. Additionally, a majority (55%) of respondents agreed that commercial capabilities can deliver the same or better levels of performance than purpose-built DoD communications.
    • Additionally, more than half of respondents (59%) agreed that increasing the use of commercial solutions is key to accelerating strategic initiatives such as Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) or other joint combat programs.
  • However, when asked if their agency would adopt commercial defense communications technology and services in the next year to keep pace with adversaries, only 33% said commercial communications adoption was very ( 26%) or extremely (7%) likely to occur. Similarly, only 35% of respondents said their agency is leveraging new acquisition processes and mechanisms such as OTAs and as-a-service models to help update defense communications technologies.

Space networks and business solutions needed for future battles

  • More than three-quarters (77%) of respondents agree that future combat will require an advanced space-based networking capability to meet operational and mission requirements. But, despite recognizing the importance of space networks, only 19% said their agency was actively investing in advanced satellite communications to meet the needs of modern warfighters.

Cyberattacks against defense communication technologies/infrastructure remain a challenge

  • 40% of respondents believe their agency is adequately prepared for a cyberattack on defense communications technology/infrastructure. While this may signal an improvement from 2020, when only 24% of respondents were very or extremely confident in their agency’s readiness for a cyberattack on defense communications, it is still concerning that nearly three in 10 respondents (28%) do not. think their agency is sufficiently prepared for such a cyberattack.

Next-gen technologies are needed to advance defense communications, but investments are lagging

  • Artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing and 5G technology were the top technologies selected by respondents to advance defense communication capabilities. However, active investment in these technologies appears to be lagging behind, with only 27% of respondents saying their agency is actively investing in AI and 26% in 5G. Cloud was the highest priority next-gen technology, with 37% saying their agency is actively investing in the cloud to support defense communications.

“In its third year, the survey of the state of military communications highlights both encouraging results and regarding trends surrounding the future of US military communications. The government recognizes the need to modernize defense communications and the value of commercial capabilities,” mentioned Craig Miller, President of Viasat Government Systems. “But cultural change is often more difficult than technological change. DoD personnel see adversaries closing the capability gap and know that new approaches are needed if the United States is to maintain an advantage. Multi-domain communications and data transport are not only vital for missions, but will likely be a decisive factor in future conflicts.

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