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Official Addresses Diminishing Government Frequency Spectrum

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

ROSSLYN, Va., May 15, 2013 – The Defense Department must adjust amid shrinking bandwidth and budgets, a Defense Information Systems Agency official said during a National Spectrum Management Association conference here today.

Stuart Timerman, Defense Spectrum Organization director, said DISA and Pentagon officials seek solutions to better manage the finite resource that enables warfighters to use technologies such as radar, navigation, weapons and communications systems.

Frequencies once reserved strictly for government use have been transferred to solely commercial use through executive and congressional action, Timerman said. This creates a challenge for the Defense Department, given its “huge appetite for information,” he added.

“The federal government, including the DOD, has given up more than 237 megahertz of spectrum with the potential loss of another 500 megahertz,” Timerman said. “We have to be able to, through the use of technology, accommodate the needs of the commercial entities … [and] continue to operate in the same spectrum [to] accommodate our warfighter needs.”

Among the more pressing challenges is the need to develop policies and technological standards that use spectrum more efficiently, he said, while ensuring the regulatory framework remains flexible enough to accommodate and promote emerging technologies.

“It’s like [losing] forest land, but we can’t regrow trees,” Timerman explained. “If we continue to do things that carve out spectrum, we no longer can have innovative ideas in certain areas.”

And though auctions for spectrum space bring money into a general fund for the government, the highest bidder gets exclusive use to those frequencies as dictated by Federal Communications Commission rules, Timerman said. Long-term strategies involve the development of active programs such as the Global Electromagnetic Spectrum Information System, which allows DOD to better manage frequency use for its mission.

“The goal is to have it do near-real-time frequency management of the spectrum so we optimize our use of [it] for the mission,” he said.

Short-term steps, he added, include DISA-generated tools that move or compress current allotted frequency. But spectrum, Timerman asserted, also relies on physics, namely operating in certain optimal frequency ranges.

“If I’m in a heavily forested area … and I want to communicate out of the canopy, … I have to be on specific frequencies or I can’t do it,” he explained. “The foliage will actually block the signal.”

With many of the military’s and other entities’ needs focused on the same general frequency band within the spectrum, “we have to look at where we want to go as a nation,” Timerman said. DOD will continue to need greater throughput, more bandwidth and more spectrum in the years to come, he added.


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Related Sites:
Defense Information Systems Agency
Defense Spectrum Organization
National Spectrum Management Association

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