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Defense CIO: Wireless Spectrum a Critical Enabler

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 20, 2012 – “Spectrum is the critical enabler that ensures information is dependably available to train our forces and ensure our mission accomplishment,” Teresa M. Takai, the chief information officer for the Department of Defense, said today.

Takai was speaking at the announcement of the release of a report, “Realizing the Full Potential of Government-Held Spectrum to Spur Economic Growth,” from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, or PCAST.

The report was released following President Barack Obama’s June 2010 memo asking federal agencies to free up 500 megahertz of space in the radio spectrum for the ongoing growth of wireless services and to help further economic growth.

“We are dependent on industry for innovative products that can be used for national security,” Takai said. “In that regard, we remain fully committed in support of the national economic and security goals of the president’s 500 MHz initiative.”

“Military spectrum requirements are diverse and complex,” she added. “We must ... recognize the growing spectrum demands resulting from [DOD’s] increasing reliance on spectrum-dependent technologies.”

As an example, Takai cited the increased use of unmanned aerial systems, or UASs, to process critical intelligence and reconnaissance data. The number of UASs accessing the government-held spectrum increased from 167 in 2002 to more than 7,500 in 2010, resulting in a dramatic increase in UAS use and training requirements, she said.

To cope with the increasing demand, the U.S. will need to adopt an “all of the above strategy,” said Jason Furman, the principal deputy director of the National Economic Council. Such a strategy, he said, will entail not just traditional reallocation of frequencies, but infrastructure development, incentive auctions and new technologies.

“If the nation expands its options for managing federal spectrum, we could transform the availability of this national resource from scarcity to abundance,” said Mark Gorenberg, the chair of the PCAST working group responsible for the report.

The PCAST report recommended employing new technologies to more efficiently utilize the existing spectrum. For example, the report suggested, rather than reserving a frequency for use by a single agency or private company, new technologies can allow a frequency to be shared by a many users.

This approach could lead to a “shared-use superhighway,” according to the report, moving away from the idea of single band ownership in favor of larger groups of shared frequencies. This superhighway would be a tiered system that establishes a hierarchy on frequencies shared by multiple entities while routing traffic to open spaces on those frequencies.

Pointing to a 95 MHz-wide section of the spectrum that is currently shared by more than 20 agencies holding more than 3,000 frequency assignments, many of them defense related, Lawrence Strickling, the administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Department of Commerce, said: “It will take at least ten years and about $18 billion to clear this band of the federal uses and then make it available to commercial uses.”

“It’s going to cost too much and take too long to reallocate this spectrum the old-fashioned way. The solution, as PCAST recommends, is for federal agencies and commercial users to share the spectrum,” said Strickling, who also serves as the assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information.

“The implementation of more effective and efficient use of this finite radio frequency spectrum and the development of solutions to meet these goals is essential to national security and economic goals,” Takai said.

“The move from an exclusive-right spectrum management regime to one focused on large-scale spectrum sharing between federal and commercial systems represents a major shift in the way spectrum is managed,” Takai added. “While this shift represents many challenges, we will continue to work with our industry partners and our government partners to develop equitable spectrum sharing solutions.”

 

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Teresa M. Takai

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