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Defense Department Press Briefing on 5G Communications Technology Testing and Experimentation

June 3, 2020
Dr. Joseph Evans, Department of Defense technical director for 5G, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering

STAFF:  So good afternoon everyone.  Thank you for joining us today. 

This afternoon, Dr. Joseph Evans, the Department of Defense Technical Director for 5G in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, will announce that seven military installations have been selected to host 5G communications technology testing and experimentation.  This will bring to 12 the number of U.S. military installations slated to host 5G events -- or 5G tests, rather. 

Joining Dr. Evans by phone today are members of the department-wide 5G working group.  They are Fred Moorefield, Deputy Chief Information Officer for Command, Control and Communications in the Office of Secretary of Defense Chief Information Officer; Frank Konieczny, Air Force Chief Technology Officer, Office of the Deputy Chief Information Officer in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force.

Also, Mike Galbraith, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at the Department of the Navy; Colonel Schawn Branch, Senior Staff Officer with Headquarters of the Department of the Army in the Office of the Chief Information Officer; and Bong Gumahad, Director of Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment.

So we have 30 minutes for today's briefing.  We can go a little longer if we need to.  This is on the record and for attribution.  Dr. Evans has an opening statement and then we'll be glad to take any questions that you may have.

With that, we'll turn it over to Dr. Evans.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT TECHNICAL DIRECTOR FOR 5G JOSEPH EVANS:  Thank you.  DoD is announcing seven U.S. military installations as latest sites where it will conduct 5G prototyping, experimentation and testing. 

The bases selected are Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii; Joint Base San Antonio in Texas; the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California; Fort Hood in Texas; Camp Pendleton in California; and Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma.

The second round, tranche two, as we call it, brings the total number of installations selected for testing -- 5G testing to 12.  Last year, the Department announced the selection of the tranche one bases.  Those tranche one bases are Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, Hill Air Force Base in Utah, Naval Base San Diego in California, and Marine Corps Logistics Space Albany in Georgia.  In May of 2020, DoD also announced the selection of Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. 

This latest tranche builds upon the DoD's previously announced 5G prototyping and experimentation plan, as well as the recently released Department of Defense 5G Strategy.  The next round of opportunities will focus on -- on several new areas.

The first of those areas is ship-wide and pier-side connectivity at Naval Station Norfolk, enhancing aircraft mission readiness at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, augmented reality support of maintenance and training at Joint Base San Antonio, wireless connectivity for forward base, operating bases and Tactical Operations Centers, TOCs, at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin and at Fort Hood, Texas -- those are paired -- paired together -- wireless connectivity for forward bases, operating bases and Tactical Operations Centers at Camp Pendleton with the Marines, DoD 5G security experimentation network at Joint Base San Antonio and multiple remote locations that would be interconnected by that security experimentation network, and then by-directional spectrum sharing between DoD and commercial communications at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma.

The bases that were selected were selected for their ability to serve as at-scale, as large scale test facilities to enable rapid experimentation as well as dual use application prototyping.  Selection criteria included factors such as mature fiber and wireless infrastructure, streamlined access to spectrum bands and prototyping, test area and training range access.

So, you know, DoD recognizes that industry is driving 5G technology with massive investments in the many hundreds of billions of -- of dollars.  Because of that, DoD is working closely with industry partners to leverage those investments for military applications.  In the coming weeks, the -- the Department will issue requests for proposals from industry -- from those industry partners to prototype and experiment at these tranche two bases. 

5G technology is vital to maintaining America's military and economic advantages.  5G will be the advent of ubiquitous connectivity -- that is the connectivity of everything and -- and everyone everywhere through wireless communications.  It is a transformational technology.

With this latest tranche of bases and -- and experiments, DoD is ensuring that our military can make use of 5G capabilities based on the innovations from U.S. industries.  And with that, I'll hand it over for questions.

STAFF:  Thank you, sir.  So we have Kris in the room.  Kris, why don't you go ahead?

Q:  Yes.  Could you speak a little bit to the concerns about security in 5G areas?

DR. EVANS:  Certainly, so one of the key thrust areas that we're pursuing in our overall prototyping experimentation program is security.  To give an overview of the -- of the overall plan, we really break it down into three areas. 

One, we call accelerate, which is hasten DoD's use of 5G technologies.  Another is -- really the third one, which is innovate, which is next-G technologies, 6G, 7G, pushing the technology edge so the U.S. positioned well there. 

The middle one is what we call operate through, which is making sure that our 5G networks are both secure as well as we have the ability to operate wherever and wherever we go -- whenever or wherever we go. 

It might include nations where there are untrusted -- there is untrusted equipment in the networks from vendors that are unreliable for various reasons.  And we want to make sure that we can operate in those environments as well as in more trusted environments in the -- in the United States.  So that is our operate through thrust with a heavy focus on, you know, technologies such as zero-trust and those types of tools to make sure that we can operate whether the underlying network is trustable or not.

Q:  Can you talk a little bit about progress on those fronts?

DR. EVANS:  So we have -- in general within our overall program, we have put out solicitations for work at the initial tranche one bases.  Those are now -- to include such as zero-trust security, experimentation, and other security related topics.  Those solicitations, the most -- the final one just closed last Friday.  And so, we are now in the process of the source selection process and looking forward to awards later this summer where we can start actually diving deep into some of those topics.

STAFF:  So we've got a few people on the telephone, let's go there.  So Justin Doubleday?

Q:  Hey, thanks.  I just wanted to ask, for the second tranche, when do expect to actually get through the award process and begin building up these test beds and then experimenting?

DR. EVANS:  Yes, so our timeline is we plan to get solicitations out this summer.  We are moving forward expeditiously with -- with that.  We've been pretty forward leaning and trying to get industry involved in our tranche one test beds, Nellis, and now the tranche two test bed, so definitely this summer.  Our goal is that by the end of fall to have these test beds stood up and industry working at those sites.

Q:  And just as a quick follow-up for the bi-directional spectrum sharing at Tinker, can you say what bands of spectrum that is going to be focused on?

DR. EVANS:  Good question.  We're actually interested in multiple spectrum bands.  Our general philosophy on -- on 5G is that all of the low-, mid-, high-band are all of interest to DOD because we want this flexibility to operate wherever and whenever. 

The work at Tinker will likely focus on multiple bands, certainly in -- in the mid-band.  We are very interested in pursuing different types of models for sharing in the mid-band. 

As you may know, the first tranche of experiments included work in the mid-band at Hill Air Force Base between 5G and high-powered radars.  That was really the focus of spectrum sharing there.  At Tinker, the focus is really on sharing between communications systems, both DoD communications systems and 5G systems -- so just communications, not this mix of radar and communications. 

And so, that's -- because of, you know, the overall spectrum crunch, we think that it has benefits in peacetime as well as in times of national emergency, when you can then -- DoD can then make more effective use of -- of spectrum that may not be otherwise in use at that -- at that time. 

That does not preclude doing work at the millimeter waves as well.  We are interested in spectrum sharing technologies there.  That receives a little less attention perhaps -- or has received a little less attention perhaps up until now.  But we think that that is also a good place for DoD and the U.S. to press ahead and gain some technological advantages.

STAFF:  Thanks, Justin.  Let's go to Abraham Mahshie from Washington Examiner.

Q:  Yes, thank you so much.  So what I'm wondering about is where does this put us in the race to start incorporating 5G into the U.S. military compared to -- like, there's been a lot of reporting on how it's already incorporated into the Chinese military.  I hope you can answer that or sort of touch, sort of, generally on where we are.  Thank you.

DR. EVANS:  Sure.  I think we're -- we're competitive in this -- in this space.  The -- obviously there are challenges that we have with -- with our potential adversaries.  But we do not think that, you know, we're behind in any -- in any sense here.

The U.S. has been leaning forward over the past number of years on the use of 4G technologies in the military.  And so, there is some experience with -- with that, including operational use of that technology.  And we believe we can leverage that experience along with some of these new efforts that were ramping up in prototyping and experimentation to gain some advantages.

One area I'd highlight in particular is spectrum sharing.  The U.S. has long led in that area.  We think it is a, you know, differentiator and provides useful capabilities for both the commercial world but also, most importantly to DoD, to the military.

STAFF:  Let's go to Dee Ann Divis, on the phone as well.

Q:  Hi.  Thank you for taking the question.  With the bi-directional sharing, are you talking about working in L-band maybe in some of the -- with some of the satellite communications like Iridium, for example, or somebody else?

DR. EVANS:  We have not yet specified which bands that we'll focus on at -- at Tinker Air Force Base.  The -- you know, mid-bands -- you know, in the -- in the 3 gig -- 3- to 4-gigahertz general range are the most -- of the most interest at the moment.  And so, it is likely that we'll be doing some experimentation there. 

But again, we're interested in multiple bands.  And we believe that some of the fundamental technologies in terms of how you use the -- that -- how you share that spectrum in terms of sensing, sharing information between commercial systems and military systems and vice versa, those types of technologies are applicable to multiple bands, not just the mid-band or any particular one.

Q:  If I could follow-up?

DR. EVANS:  Please.

Q:  Slightly different.  The standard setting is -- is a significant consideration, as I understand it, for DoD's 5G efforts.  This new tranche, will that feed into your standing -- standing -- standard setting efforts?

DR. EVANS:  Yes.

Q:  The results?

DR. EVANS:  Yes, thank you.  That's a great question.  Yes, absolutely.  We -- as I mentioned, we recently released the DoD 5G Strategy.  There are multiple lines of effort as part of that, one is technology development, another one is 5G security related -- think our operate through types of things.  Another part is engagement with allies and partners. 

But a key line of effort is standards engagement.  And so, we are working with -- throughout the Department -- with our partners throughout the Department as well as the interagency in order to, you know, put forward U.S. interests in this -- in this -- this area, or certainly DoD interests in this -- this area.

The base deployments do help inform that by providing an opportunity to understand what different standards aspects have an impact on DoD use of 5G and DoD operations to allow us to focus our efforts so that we can get the most out of those -- those engagements.

Q:  Thanks.

STAFF:  Thank you.  Let's go to Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET.

Q:  I'm okay.  Thank you.

STAFF:  OK.  Thanks, Andrew.  We've got some time left.  If there's anybody else on the phone that hasn't had a chance to get a question in, or if there are follow-ups, please go ahead.  All right, hearing nothing. 

Thank you very much for joining us today.  If you do have some follow-ups that you couldn't think of right now, please send them to me and we'll get answers back to you as quickly as we can.  Thank you very much.