Transcript

Department of Defense Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy and Deputy Chief Information Officer for Command, Control and Communications Fred Moorefield Media Roundtable on Ligado

May 6, 2020
DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy and Deputy CIO for Command, Control and Communications Fred Moorefield

CIO DANA DEASY: If I was successful today, I was trying to get across, at least in my testimony, three points that I want you to kind of walk away with. First point was the whole discussion on the fact that Ligado's plan is to repurpose a portion of the spectrum adjacent to GPS [Global Positioning System] will cause harmful interference to millions of GPS receivers across the country, both civilians and military, and as you know, that topic had quite an extensive set of Q&A on that today.

As you note that the GPS interference, we believe there are some major shortfalls in the aspects of how they're rolling it out, specifically, the restrictions that the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] had put in, we believe are inadequate or simply will not work. As you know, I covered that on the hearing today. I was specifically asked to talk about that. I talked about the guard band, the power levels, the coordination, the remediation. Those points were one.

Point number two was we want to get across the fact that we have a fundamental responsibility to protect GPS as it's paramount to the safety of American citizens, as well as national and economic security. Want to get across the fact that in protecting that, we worry about such things as the impact of not being able to pinpoint a 911 call, to launch precision airstrikes, prepare for combat forces and other acts that involve safety, health and wellbeing. And as you know, General Raymond today covered in his remarks a lot about the impact to equipping, man, training, exercises, et cetera.

The third point was this idea that Ligado is trying to be the provider of 5G for America. We think that they're misrepresenting what they can do in the 5G space. We don't believe they have a full, robust, technical, viable solution, and their solution only targets a small subset of 5G.

And along that same discussion we wanted to get across the fact that DOD [Department of Defense] is starting to get very actively involved with 5G from an experimentation standpoint, as well as the fact we're standing up a team of some experts to address how do we look at the mid-band and continuous segments of that mid-band that we can make available for industry use.

You know, I'll close by simply saying that I think Secretary Esper really said it best in his op-ed. America deserves a better alternative, and we don't believe that Ligado is the appropriate solution for America, not when it comes to causing the harm that they'll cause for 5G -- I mean, excuse me, for GPS.

Before I turn it over for questions, I asked Fred Moorefield to join. Fred is really the heart and soul, the man that actually is responsible for managing spectrum across the DOD. He has been engaged and involved on the Ligado all the way back to the LightSquared days, so he has a lot of history and might be able to fill in gaps where I can't answer them, or where my brain is no longer functioning after that hearing today.

So with that, let's go ahead and open it up.

STAFF: Thank you, sir. Let's go to Justin Doubleday first.

MR. DEASY: Hey, Justin. How are you doing?

Q: Hey, I'm doing well, sir. How are you?

MR. DEASY: (inaudible)

Q: Thank you for take -- thanks for taking the time after a long hearing. You know, I just wanted to ask, you know, it seems like there -- there's a breakdown over these different studies that are being mentioned. Can you talk about, you know, why the, quote/unquote "Ligado-funded research" from the NASCTN [National Advanced Spectrum Communication Test Network] (inaudible) is not valid in your guys' viewpoint…

MR. DEASY: Yeah.

Q: …especially considering DOD is a member of that public/private partnership.

MR. DEASY: Well, there's a couple ways you could study. You can study based on the volume of receivers you study, and then you can study on the length of time and how you actually then conduct the study.

One of the things that the DOT [Department of Transportation] and the DOD studies did was to test a wide variety of receivers, test them under different types of power, range, and in doing that, what you're trying to do is you're trying to get an understanding over time, what does the study result say?

On the other hand, what Ligado did was they chose a very small number of receivers. They studied them very quickly, and the way they studied them was just to start turning up the power and see at what point the receivers would fail or not fail. And of course, if they did not fail under the 10 watts, then they would say that that was a successful study. Well, there's some real fallacies and problems with that because A, the variety, the number of manufacturers and under the circumstance of how long they tested them are such that they did not get to the same sort of standardized study process that we believe was the right one that should have been used.

We didn't really get into that today in the hearing (inaudible) too much onto theirs, but we just have a difference of opinion on the methodology that they used versus the methodology that was used by DOT.

Q: Thanks. So just as a quick follow-up, are you planning any additional studies, analyses or even tests to kind of get your point across even further to some, you know, senators who weren’t entirely convinced?

MR. DEASY: I don't -- at this point what we really have to do is we have to get ourselves in the position to be able to have a conversation on, how do we go about getting the decision reversed? So in other words, the first step is, how do we go through an appeal process? If in doing that appeal process and working with the FCC, there's a belief that there is a need for further study, absolutely, we will look at that, but, given the fact that we've done a wide range of receivers, and we've done it at the specification that are in the strict guidelines that the FCC ordered, you know, we have a strong view at this point that studies are going to end up providing the same results. But we would absolutely look at that if that is the best way forward to be able to get this decision reversed.

Q: All right, thank you.

STAFF: Thanks, Justin. Let's go to Aaron, Defense News.

Q: Thanks very much. I appreciate doing this after that three-hour monster hearing. I guess the -- the big question for me is what the goal is, going forward? I understand the goal is you hope the FCC overturns itself. But even in the hearing, there didn't seem to be much confidence among senators that scenario would happen. So aside from the putting in a formal process and -- and hoping for that relook from the FCC, are you hoping to get Commerce, the Commerce Committee to start holding hearings? Are you hoping for legislation from SASC [Senate Armed Services Committee]? I mean, what's the plan here?

MR. DEASY: Yeah, I would say a couple different fronts. So that question kind of got right (inaudible) from the hearing today. One is hoping that due to SASC and through, you know, a large number of senators that are concurring that this is not an appropriate action the FCC's taking, that one -- one avenue could be legislative action. Don't ask me today on this phone call to describe what that looks like, the shape and form that might take. That still has to be pursued, and there is conversations going on to look at that.

The other one is the formal channels, in this case, NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration] is underneath Commerce. We would go back to NTIA like we would anytime you have a difference of view with the FCC releasing a change in spectrum. So those would be the two that we would be pursuing.

Q: Broadly speaking, you mentioned a couple of times in the hearing that this -- you felt like this kind of came out of nowhere. There wasn't communication from the FCC about this decision. Do you think the FCC was purposely trying to keep the Defense Department in the dark?

MR. DEASY: You know, I have never tried, since I've been in this role in the last couple years, to try to speculate and think about the motives of other people, other organizations, so I'd really -- I really, A, don't have a strong view on that. I only can say that we were surprised. We've had a very collaborative historical working relationship. Fred Moorefield, who's joined me, will tell you, and as he shares with me all the time, for years we've worked through tough, contentious situations with the FCC, but we've always been able to work through it.

So I think for us, when we use the word surprise is to why, in this particular case, they saw fit to just go ahead and proceed with the modification to the license, but I can't speculate as to why they chose that road. 

STAFF: Thank you, sir. Let's go to Amanda from CNBC.

Q: Hey, sir. Thanks so much. Just to follow up on the next steps, do you have any idea of what timing, what an appeal process looks like, how long that's going to take or having to do more studies? Do you have any more clarity on that? And as mentioned in the -- the hearing today, there seems to be some daylight between Attorney General Barr's approval of the FCC decision, as well as Secretary Pompeo. So I'm wondering if you can clarify why the administration isn't necessarily reading from the same sheet of music.

MR. DEASY: Yeah, on the second one I can't. Here again, that would be me trying to get into some sort of speculation. I have no factual thoughts I can give you on that, so you know, where I can't factually discuss something with insight, I would just be purely speculating, so I'm not going to do that.

Repeat the first half of your question.

Q: Yeah, just on timing, what an appeal process --

MR. DEASY: Oh, timing.

Q: -- how long that would take.

MR. DEASY: Yeah. So the, the process is as we go back to the NTIA, there's a period of time after the FCC releases their decision, which they've done, that we have to have that filing done by.

Fred, you're on. What's the timing for that?

DEPUTY CIO FOR C3 FRED MOOREFIELD: Yeah, so we've got until about May the 29th to file the petition for reconsideration. So the NTIA knows how to make that happen, and what are the issues in the FCC order that we think need to be reconsidered. But May 29th, around that timeframe, is the date that we've got to submit it by. Over.

MR. DEASY: So what we're doing right now is we're spending, you know, a lot of time looking through that order, and specifically identifying the areas and the reasons why we believe reconsideration is necessary.

STAFF: Thank you, sir. Let's go to Sandra (inaudible) --

MR. MOOREFIELD: One of the questions she has was about -- one of the questions she has was about additional testing.

MR. DEASY: Go ahead, Fred.

STAFF: Go ahead, Fred.

MR. MOOREFIELD: So I think running additional testing -- I don't believe additional testing or analysis is required. This has been studied over a 10-year period. We -- we agreed on it at times in the spectrum community, and this is just another issue that we don't agree on. We've always found a way to come to some kind of resolution. This is (inaudible) before (inaudible) just unilaterally went out and did something, contrary to a unanimous, unambiguous federal government opposition.

But what I would point your direction to is the DOT/ABC [Department of Transportation Adjacent Band Compatibility] assessment is a public sign of what they've done in that assessment was layout the power required to be able operate and share compatibly within that spectrum space, but we didn't wait until the next request came through. We laid out the power levels that need to be met to be able to share in that spectrum range compatibly. Over.

Q: Thank you. So May 29th would be, essentially, your next milestone.

MR. DEASY: So to the earlier question on testing, you know, testing would only be warranted if suddenly they made a major modification to their power requirements that right now, as Fred Moorefield pointed out, is not occurring.

Next?

STAFF: Thank you, sir. Let's go to Sandra Erwin, Space News.

Q: Thank you very much, Mr. Deasy, and good evening. One of the -- there was a statement that Ligado submitted to the committee because I guess they were unhappy that they could not testify because they submitted a statement, and it says that -- it says that since 2015, there was a public notice process that the FCC notified that they weren't doing (inaudible) says that in 2016 there was a public notice, in 2018, as well, and they never received any technical information or analysis from DOD. I mean, instead of, I mean, if the opposite of what (inaudible) saying at the hearing. So are you saying that there was no -- absolutely no opportunity for DOD to submit analysis on this issue between 2015 and -- and the -- and the time that they made this decision in April?

MR. DEASY: Fred, can you cover that, since you were involved in the history (inaudible)?

MR. MOOREFIELD: Absolutely. So we have provided analysis and testing results on -- on this work from both DOT, as well as the Air Force. Ligado and/or the FCC has that information, and we have given them every -- every opportunity to object to or counter that information, and to date, they have not. So that's not -- that's not correct.

Q: And they said -- they said that they provided a draft decision in October of 2019. So I mean, Mr. Deasy, you said in your testimony that -- that this came as a surprise, as a complete surprise, but they claim that they gave you a draft of this decision in October of 2019. Was that not the case?

MR. DEASY: Fred, what was it we received in '19?

MR. MOOREFIELD: So in 2019 they -- they submitted to the IRAC [Issue, Rule, Application and Conclusion] process a draft of the proposal to approve, which we objected to. They pulled it back. We -- we provided them additional information, and every indication up until – before that April 11th date, they gave us every indication that they were going to deny the request. And in fact, they even articulated that to Ligado, and Ligado called us to see if there was a -- additional information that they could provide us to -- to turn that decision around, and we -- we could not because the power levels that we recommended they could not meet. So this was a total surprise to us.

Q: (inaudible)

MR. DEASY: So understand, this is an iterative process. It's not like there was a draft, and that's the end of the -- the process, and FCC takes the decision. FCC puts that draft out, to Fred Moorefield's point, so you can make comments. This is how the process is intended to work. This is -- so just putting out a draft does not imply that they are at a decision point; that's just implies that this is their latest thinking, and now they're looking for comments on it.

Q: Okay, thank you very much.

MR. DEASY: (inaudible)

STAFF: Thank you, Sandra. David Martin, CBS.

Q: That same letter says the unanimous bipartisan FCC order stated clearly that DOD has not provided any information to support its assertions about implications for GPS devices. So if -- if that's accurate -- I mean, it -- it -- it sounds like you guys weren't taking care of business in terms of making your case to the FCC because you were so sure that it was not going to be approved.

MR. DEASY: Well, I think the key word there -- if that's true, but it's simply not true, as Fred pointed out. We had provided the analysis to DOT, DOD, to FCC, to NTIA. I can't speak, once again, as to why would they suggest that.

Q: I just --

MR. MOOREFIELD: Yeah, I think the -- I think the evidence of that which disputes that claim is because Ligado came in with a significantly higher power level than the one that they'd gotten approved in the order. So they, over the years, tried to reduce the power and do other mitigations because they, as well as FCC, admit that there's interference to GPS. So both our analysis and their analysis, all in our -- on all of our testing all show that there's interference. The question is, what is the power level that can be turned on that will not cause interference to GPS? The difference between the two testing methodologies that took place between Ligado and NASCTN and the DOT and Air Force study was the Ligado testing was only for 14 -- a limited number of 14 receivers and a short period of time, and all they did in that testing was turn up the power on each individual receivers to determine where (inaudible) -- when the receiver broke. They did that for each individual receiver, which is not the way that you do a test of this nature.

And the difference between that and the test that DOD did was they took an internationally-recognized protection criteria and tested all 80 receivers based on that standardized universal testing protection criteria. That was the difference (inaudible) --

Q: Have -- have you guys -- have you had any conversations with the FCC since this order was -- was published? Has anybody called them and said -- and said, "What the hell"?

MR. MOOREFIELD: Yes.

Q: And?

MR. MOOREFIELD: The FCC believes that based on them siding with the Ligado results, they believe that the mitigations that they put in place protect GPS, and they believe that there's going to be interference in some cases, and they believe that the resolution of that interference and the way that they laid it out in that order is good enough to protect GPS, and we disagree wholeheartedly.

MR. DEASY: Okay, next?

STAFF: Thanks, David. Tony?

Q: Hi. Can you hear me?

STAFF: We can.

MR. DEASY: I can hear you, Tony.

Q: Okay. Coming in this cold, today's hearing reminded me of the board of inquiry after the Titanic went down. Everything's -- the damage has been done. Why did not DOD come out with a strong case like a month ago on this, sir, laying out all you talked about today?

MR. DEASY: Well, the reason why is because we were following the process. As I stated before, there is a very well-defined process that is followed in this case, and when you're in the middle of that process, you don't suddenly find yourself needing to go to a media outlet and make your case to the public when you're making your case to the necessary audience that you need to work with. So frankly, there was no reason to make a public case because we still thought we were in the process of the (inaudible).

Q: Okay. In retrospect, obviously, a mistake. One of --

MR. DEASY: No, I wouldn't call it a mistake; I would call it that we -- there is a process. People cannot forget that there is a way you go through and do this, and we have been following that process, and, if someone changes the process, and it's easy to sit there and say, "Well, you should have done 'X'." Well, that means we would have been going outside the process. We respect the process. We stay within the process.

Q: Okay. One follow-up: Ligado hired a number of lobbyists over the last six -- five or six months while the process was going on, including David Urban, a classmate of Pompeo and Secretary Esper at West Point. Do you now look -- I mean, in retrospect, did the lobbying effort by Ligado -- including Mr. Urban, possibly -- have an impact on the decision?

MR. DEASY: Cannot comment. Here again, that would be just me speculating. I have -- I have no way to sit here and tell you whether or not that lobbying had any impact. That would be just pure speculation, and I won't do that.

Q: Yeah, but you're cagey, and you hear things, you and your colleague there. You didn't get any insight that this was happening behind the scenes?

MR. DEASY: Sir, in every major acquisition I've been involved with since being in -- at the Department of Defense, there's lobbying. Every major telecommunications spectrum, there is lobbying. Lobbying is not unusual in this space. It happens on a regular basis.

Q: Okay, one final question. Did Secretary Esper at all call the White House to try to get them to weigh in on behalf of the military?

MR. DEASY: Yeah, I'm not going to comment on conversations that the secretary may have had with the White House on this matter.

Q: Well, how about you, or is -- or General Hyten? Did you talk to Larry Kudlow or anybody at the White House to say, "Hey, we need -- we need some support on this"?

MR. DEASY: Look, there's -- there's ongoing conversations that are taking place and I won't -- I won't get into who specifically are engaged in what conversations with who, and particular people. But yes, the White House has been engaged in this conversation.

Q: Okay, thanks a lot, sir.

STAFF: So we have about three minutes left before our 30 minutes is up. If anyone has a follow-up, if you would please state your name and your question.

Q: Dave Martin has another question.

STAFF: Go ahead, Dave.

Q: Is there a -- anywhere in the law a national security exemption that just would allow the executive branch to override that FCC ruling?

MR. DEASY: I'm unfortunately not the right legal person to be able to answer that question. I -- I won't even try to speculate here again if there is or is not. I can just talk about the technology side of this.

Q: Okay.

STAFF: Any other questions?

MR. DEASY: All right, well, I appreciate all your (inaudible). Thank you. I know this is, as I said, later than we had anticipated, and if you have any follow-ups -- who will -- Colonel, who would they send the follow-ups to?

STAFF: They can send them to me, sir.

MR. DEASY: Okay, very good.

STAFF: Everyone, thank you very much for your time, and we'll talk to you again soon, I'm sure.

Q: Thank you.


GPS