CEMA Conference celebrates 10 years

By Rachel PonderApril 29, 2024

Graphic advertising the CEMA Conference April 30-May 2.
The Cyber Electromagnetic Activity Conference celebrates is celebrating its 10th anniversary this spring.

(Photo Credit: Courtesy graphic via the Association of Old Crows Facebook page )

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – The Cyber Electromagnetic Activity Conference, held on APG, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this spring.

This year’s theme is “Electronic Warfare Overmatch – Reestablishing Dominance in the Electromagnetic Spectrum.” It will be held in the Myer Auditorium from April 30-May 2.

“Overmatch is a fancy way to say that we want to be able to defeat the enemy not only in the physical battle space, but also within the electromagnetic spectrum. We need to be better than they are even within this nebulous space,” said Giorgio Bertoli, who serves as the assistant director of the Spectrum Dominance and Intelligence Portfolio within the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s C5ISR Center.

The conference began in 2014 as the Army was still standing up its Electronic Warfare Corps after an almost a 30-year hiatus.

“When we were fighting the counterinsurgency war, electronic warfare was not as needed against that adversary,” Bertoli said. “However, it has gained a lot of interest throughout the community over the past several years as we began seeing some of our near peer adversaries using these capabilities.”

Michael Schwartz, CEMA co-chair and chief engineer for the Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors said this event helped shape some of the changes in people's thoughts about the value of electronic warfare for the Army.

“The original organizers knew that an EW-focused group needed to come together to talk about the issues of the day. If not us, then who, right? They had to do something. That continues today where we bring together the Army, senior leaders and industry to talk through the now the issues of today,” Schwartz said.

The CEMA Conference has grown over time from a “modest” beginning of 100 people to well over 600 attendees, who are electronic warfare professionals from industry, academia, government agencies, and Army electronic warfare Soldiers. Although most attendees are local, some have traveled as far as the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

According to Bertoli, EW has gained more relevance within the operational community itself. He explained that this is due to the war's progression in Ukraine and the Army's near-peer adversaries.

“The Army is realizing that having a robust electronic warfare capability is essential for our success,” Bertoli said.

APG is an ideal location because the installation is recognized as one of the world’s most important research, development, testing, and evaluation facilities for military weapons and equipment.

“CEMA focuses on cyber and electromagnetic technology and development, and APG is a center point for it. The C5ISR Center of Excellence is housed at APG, so we have science and technology, research, and development and acquisition all housed here. It is a focal point for where this technology and these capabilities are developed and acquired for the Army,” Bertoli said.

Rapid changing technology

Schwartz said yearly CEMA conferences are needed because EW is threat- driven, so we need to ensure the government and industry partners are moving in the right direction.

“The Army is taking a hard look at electronic warfare requirements, so having this conference as another avenue to both share and learn about the cutting-edge research and advancements in this space is definitely important because we want to make sure we’re doing it right,” Schwartz said.

Bertoli noted that the conference’s Secret classification level better enables industry partners to find out about the requirements needed for EW solutions directly from the acquisition, Science and Technology, and user communities.

“Innovation happens in this space all the time, so it’s important to keep all the key stakeholders abreast of the latest research and developments. One of the things that distinguishes this from some of the other conferences is that we're fully classified, so we get to talk at levels that are relevant to the work we need to do,” he said.

Schwartz and Bertoli said three organizations team up to host the conference: the U.S. Army DEVCOM C5ISR Center, PEO IEW&S, and the Association of the Old Crows, an international nonprofit professional organization specializing in EW, tactical information operations, and associated disciplines. Other organizations - like APG Garrison, the Army Test and Evaluation Command, the Network Cross Functional Team, the Army Research Laboratory, and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command - provide support as well.

CECOM provides sustainment support for the capabilities that will be discussed at this year’s conference.

“CECOM sustains our hardware and software for these capabilities once they are in the field, so they have interest in what we're talking about during the conference,” Schwartz said.

Additionally, the APG Senior Commander, who is also the CECOM Commanding General, typically provides welcoming remarks and gives an overview about the CEMA Conference’s importance. This year, CECOM Deputy to the Commanding General Liz Miranda will provide welcoming remarks.

The way forward 

Bertoli said the COVID-19 pandemic created a challenge to hosting the conference for a few years, but operations are mostly “back to normal,” and attendance is close to capacity. However, attendees have expressed a desire to reintroduce an international component, he added.

“That is a little challenging to do at the classified level; but it is something we have been talking about, we would like to try to bring it back,” Bertoli said.

Schwartz, who has been involved with the conference for four years, said there is an opportunity to get more representation from the other military branches.

“We are very heavily Army focused for good reason,” he said. “But we don’t know what we don’t know, and it could be something great that another service is working on that we are just not tracking. We do our best to stay in alignment with those services and understand where they are working but having them come to this and share information is always important.”

Bertoli and Schwartz think the conference and the Army are well positioned for the future.

“I think we're in a good place,” Bertoli said. “We're in for a lot of change over the next few years as the technology landscape is rapidly advancing, and there's lots of innovation on the horizon. This is an exciting time for Army electronic warfare.”

For more information about CEMA, visit https://crows.site-ym.com/page/CEMA2024.