C4ISRNET, the leading media brand dedicated to the defense networks, communications and ISR sector, has a new editor.

Mike Gruss will lead the editorial team and digital, video and print content strategy for C4ISRNET. He joins C4ISRNET parent company Sightline Media from FedTech, a custom magazine and digital brand covering the use of IT in defense and government. He previously served as senior staff writer for Space News,

“We are delighted to announce this exciting addition to our newsroom, and the expansion of the editorial team for C4ISRNET,” said David Smith, president of Sightline. “This is a significant investment in the continued growth of C4ISRNET, and reaffirms what the defense IT and networks means for the future of our company and the defense market more generally.”

Jill Aitoro, executive editor of Sightline Media’s Business to Government group, said Gruss will be charged with infusing a contemporary edge in C4ISRNET content and providing broader coverage of the technologies transforming warfare. Gruss’s partner in this will be Amber Corrin, who is transitioning to senior reporter, C4ISRNET, and group associate editor, defense IT, for Sightline Media’s Network Solutions group. Corrin will collaborate with Gruss to ensure significant expansion of coverage. She also returns to reporting on top issues of the day, allowing the C4ISRNET brand to benefit from her exceptional reporting and analysis . Mark Pomerleau will also continue his superb work as a dedicated reporter for C4ISRNET.

Mike Gruss, spoke to Aitoro about a few key areas to the C4ISRNET audience.

You have an extensive background reporting about space. We hear a lot about that being the next frontier of warfare. How would you describe the nature of the threat in the space domain?

The threat to space-based capabilities is legitimate. About 10 years ago China proved – maybe a little too capably - that it had a missile that could destroy a satellite. That demonstration left thousands of pieces of space debris, creating a nightmare of possibilities for collisions. Since then, Air Force and intelligence officials are convinced a missile could reach a satellite in an even higher orbit, where the Defense Department keeps its most valuable assets. Look, I’m skeptical we’ll see that kind of destruction again – at least for a while – for a couple of reasons. One, destroying a satellite is a dangerous red line to cross. Two, the debris from such an attack would hurt everyone’s ability to operate in space. But unquestionably, limiting space capabilities, either through jamming or close approaches or cyber or other techniques has captured the attention of senior leaders. We know this, if for no other reason, than the billions of dollars in new money they’ve put toward the problem in recent years.

For the last 15 years or so, operations in Afghanistan have sucked a lot of the oxygen out the room for the military. In terms of our C4 capabilities, how has that helped us and how has that hurt us?

It’s not a hypothetical exercise or a wargame. It’s 15 years of feedback on exactly what warfighters want. In short: more comms, more ISR. That’s valuable. By the same logic, the last 15 years have also exposed where the deficiencies are. But let’s take it back one step further. Because of the intense day-to-day nature of operations, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and put off thinking about emerging trends and rising threats. Plenty of very smart folks in the national security community know where improvement is needed. Electronic warfare is one great example. Making use of new commercial capabilities, such as software defined radios, are another. Plenty of very smart folks in the national security community know where improvement is needed. But when all eyes are on Afghanistan, it makes it hard to get the time, money and brainpower that’s needed to focus on anything else.

The procurement morass. Does it prevent the US from keeping up in military tech?

I don’t think it prevents the Pentagon from keeping up, but the procurement process certainly scares folks away. The defense and intelligence communities have made an admirable effort to do more business with Silicon Valley and tech startups. But all that goodwill is meaningless if navigating the federal procurement system is a quagmire. Some up-and-coming firms have simply told the government, “No thanks, we don’t need you as a customer. It’s too much hassle.” That’s not a case of not keeping up, but it is certainly evident of the obstacles the Pentagon faces in staying on the bleeding edge. It also starts a scary set of “what if” questions. To me, that’s the type of procurement problem the Defense Department needs to solve.