Transcript

DOD Research & Engineering Leaders Brief Reporters on Newest 5G Developments

Oct. 8, 2020
Michael J.K. Kratsios, U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Acting Undersecretary Of Defense (Research And Engineering); Dr. Joseph Evans, Department of Defense Principal Director for 5G; Commander Josh Frey OSD Public Affairs

COMMANDER JOSH FREY:  Good evening, everyone.  For those of you who I haven't talked to yet, my name is Commander Josh Frey with OSD Public Affairs and I'll be facilitating this -- this conference call.

And so, thank you for joining us.  And this evening, the Acting Undersecretary for Defense for Research and Engineering, Michael Kratsios will begin (inaudible) with a brief statement on the Department of Defense's 5G testing and experimentation.

He will then be joined by Dr. Joseph Evans, the Department of Defense's Principal Director for 5G under the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering for a brief question-and-answer session.

We will have about 30 minutes for this evening's event and this is on the record and for attribution.  If you have follow-on questions or if I haven't called you during the roll-call of this, we'll come back to you at the end.

But if you have follow-on questions after the briefing, please let me know and I will try to get you that information as soon as I can or direct you to the appropriate point of contact.

With that, Mr. Kratsios, will now provide an opening statement and then we'll be glad to take the questions you have after that.  Mr. Kratsios, are you on the line?

ACTING UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE MICHAEL J.K. KRATSIOS:  I am.  Good afternoon.  Thank you so much for joining us today.  Thank you.

On behalf of the Department of Defense, I am pleased to be here with Dr. Joe Evans, our principal director for 5G to share this important announcement on advancing American leadership in 5G.

5G is foundational to all U.S. defense programs and vital to American national and economic security.  As many of you know, 5G networks and the technology that will be built upon them are an integral component of the national defense strategy.  We, at the DOD are committed to the advancement of this critical emerging technology to improve the lethality and modernization of our force.

Today, we are proud to announce that the Department of Defense is awarding $600 million in awards for 5G test bed and experimentation activities at five U.S. military test sites.  These activities represent the largest full scale 5G tests for dual use applications anywhere in the world.

These experiments will be performed at five military installations, including Hill Air Force Base in Utah, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany in Georgia, Naval Base San Diego in California, and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Private sector partners on the site include AT&T, Ericsson, Federated Research, Nokia, and the Scientific Research Corporation.  A full list of industry partners is available on defense.gov.

Working with close concert with industry, we're using these test sites to accelerate U.S. 5G leadership and ensure the Department benefits when new applications are enabled by this technology.

Projects include testing smart warehouses and the more efficient delivery of supplies to our warfighters, augmented in virtual reality for combat training in dispersed command centers to make our forces more mobile, safer, and secure.

This testing experimentation will not only dramatically improve our warfighting capabilities, it will also bring new uses and opportunities for this technology to the private sector.

I'd like to take a moment to highlight what makes DOD test sites so unique.  Outside of the department, in order for private sector companies to test the capabilities and functionality of 5G communications, it takes a very onerous process, negotiating agreements with state and local officials, obtaining poll permits, funding and construction of the antennas, and the list goes on.

At the DOD, we already have personnel, operational capacity, facilities, scale, and regulatory greenlight to get the job done.  Again, these activities represent the largest full-scale 5G test for dual-use application anywhere in the world.  We look forward to great progress to come from these test sites in the month and years ahead.

Nations that master advanced communication technologies will enjoy long-term economic and military advantages.  More broadly, the department supports national efforts to advance U.S. and allied 5G capabilities from an awareness of 5G risk to national security and develop approaches to protect and promote 5G infrastructure and technologies.

Our nation has taken strong action to that end.  Moving forward, the department will continue to focus on large-scale experimentation prototyping of dual-use 5G technology for military and commercial purposes.  These sandboxing activities at military bases harness the department's unique authorities to pursue bold innovations and game changing technologies.

Looking ahead, the department will begin testing on seven more military bases in the coming year.  By increasing our coordination among partners in the services, industry and academia, and by renewing our commitment to fundamental research and development, we will preserve our nation's technological edge and the innovated genius has long been the source of American strength and leadership.

With that, I'm happy to take questions and I know Dr. Evans is also on the phone as well.

CMDR. FREY:  All right.  Thank you, Mr. Kratsios.

Now, we will go to Wall Street journal to ask the first question and I will let "The Wall Street Journal" decide who is going to ask that question.

Q:  Okay.  Thank you very much.  This is Drew FitzGerald from the Journal.  Curious on this testbed system whether the contract is spelled out.  What frequencies and spectrum will be used in the contract?  And a follow-up, if I might, you announced in an event back in August that there would be 100 megahertz of defense department spectrum up for auction through a process that the FCC could kick off late next year although the department has also issued a request for information for how best to use that same spectrum under sharing regime that at least looks like it, conflicts with the proposal that the FCC has advanced.

So, just wondering if those two proposals will work in tandem or if they are contradictory.

PRINCIPAL DIRECTOR FOR 5G JOSEPH EVANS:  So, this is Joe Evans and thank you for participating in today's call.  Why don't I start with the first part of that -- that question which is one what frequencies and what spectrum are we using for these different base deployments?

And really, the answer is all of these spectrum bands that are available under the 5G standards.  So, we are different -- different sites are doing different types of experiments.  And so, we find that there's value -- DOD finds that there's value in all of the spectrum bands for 5G whether it's low band, mid band, high band or millimeter wave.

And so, different experiments will do different types of -- we'll use different frequency bands.  So, for example, in the warehouse experiments that are within the confine of the warehouse, we'll definitely be using millimeter wave technologies where we can use the high capacities that are provided by millimeter wave.

For some of the other experiments, for example, the Hill Air Force Base experiment will be using mid-band spectrum because we're looking at the impact of 5G on high barrier airborne radars and vice versa the radar on the 5G system.  So, in that case, we're specifically looking at mid band spectrum in the 3100- to 3450-megahertz range.

So, we also have several of the sites that are using the CBRS spectrum, the citizen's broadband radio service spectrum.  So, really, using a variety of spectrum, spectrum bands.

In terms of the America's broadband or America's mid-band initiative spectrum that you referred to, we think that's very complimentary to our activities.  If you want additional details on that, I would -- and the RRFI, I really would refer you to DOD CIO and our public affairs colleagues can help make those -- those connections.

CMDR. FREY:  All right.  Thank you, Dr. Evans, and thank you Wall Street Journal.

And one quick reminder everyone, if you're not speaking, I would just -- please keep your phone on mute.

And with that, we will go to Jackson Barnett with Defense Group.

Q:  Thank you.  This is Jackson Barnett with FedScoop.  Is there something new as far as the capabilities that you hope to test and ultimate achieve with this new announcement?  You mentioned this is the largest we've seen.  Previous announcement for these types of test beds, sandboxing activities.

But are there new capabilities or other new things that this latest round of sandboxing will aim to achieve?

DR. EVANS:  So, why don't I answer that in two parts.  One part is in general across the sites.  So, across the five -- five sites that we're talking about, one of the things that really -- we like to emphasize is that these are at scale of experiments, these aren't just little -- little demonstrations in a small area and showing a science experiment.

These are at scale deployments of 5G technology and the valuation of DOD and industry parallel views, dual-use type of applications.  And so, the smart warehouses, the -- how DOD can use that technology and at the same time that allows U.S. industry to mature it's capabilities in that area.

So, for each -- each of the experiments, it has some aspect that is new and exciting to us.  So, for example, I mentioned the Hill Air Force Base experiment.  That's the first at-scale valuation of high-power radars (inaudible) versus 5G systems and how those two coexist or work together.

At smart warehouses, it's diving into how we deal with the complex DOD environment.  DOD brings the set of problems that the commercial world doesn't have to -- have to face in terms of different types of -- for example, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, we're looking at warehousing and maintenance of vehicles.  Well, that's not just your average SUV, that's a tank or an MRAP at Albany.  So, it's a different type of requirement there.  So, that's one of the things that we're looking at through those.

Other experiments like the AR/VR experiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, very much looking at how we integrate training and operations together into the 5G environment.  So, can we use 5G to provide the connectivity, thecommunications fabric that allow soldiers in the field to use some of these advanced augmented reality types of goggles and capabilities?

And then Nellis Air Force Base, we're basically trying to make our forces more survivable by taking command and control functions that have long been housed in single buildings and spread them out and make them mobile.  So, we're really trying to change the way our forces are deployed in the field.

So, all -- each of these experiments has some aspect that's really new and exciting to us.  In addition, it also provides an opportunity for the -- for industry to experiment and mature their technologies along those parallel tracks.

So, in the warehouse case, obviously, logistics and supply industry would be interested in that.  And in cases like the AR/VR support, that has very much a parallel in what  is done in gaming and increasingly in training support in many different verticals.

So, I think -- there's lots to be excited about here.  Hopefully, we're getting that across.

CMDR. FREY:  Thank you, sir.

And now we will go to Jeff with Task & Purpose.

Q:  Thank you.  I actually am going to pass because my question has been answered.  Thank you.

CMDR. FREY:  Okay.  And now we'll go to Aaronfrom the Washington Post.

Q:  Thank you, guys, for doing this.  I have a question about the October 17th request for information.  What are the next steps as far as moving forward with that project?  Are there any plans to accelerate the acquisition by doing RFP or some sort of other next step?  What does that look like at this point?

DR. EVANS:  Like I've been mentioning earlier, I defer questions for that over to a -- refer questions of that over to DOD CIO and Josh can help close the loop there.  Over.

Q:  Okay.  Thank you.

CMDR. FREY:  All right.  Justin Doubleday.

Q:  Thanks.  I'm sorry to ask specifically about the spectrum sharing experimentation.  I was wondering if you can kind of piece out how you envision this playing out in terms of assessing these different solutions.  What kind of development work has to go in to actually make this work and then how do you see it coming out the other side in terms of coming up with a viable solution that can then be used as part of commercial 5G deployments where military systems and commercial networks for perhaps sharing spectrum.

Can you just kind of layout your vision there?

DR. EVANS:  Sure.  And I think there's several pieces to the vision.  So. First, I should preface it by saying that there has been several efforts to implement spectrum sharing, for example, a very early one was in the digital TV transition that the bands read up there.  And a later one, that's still ongoing is CBRS that I mentioned earlier which is Citizen's Broadband Radio Service where there is a combination of a spectrum access system and then environmental sensing system.  The sensing system turns the radar or detects radars and then helps coordinate what bands are being impacted in the cellular network.  The -- those are early examples of spectrum sharing.

In the Hill Air Force Base experiment, what we're trying to do is understand how you can make these high-power radars coexist with 5G cellular systems.  And so, there's a -- probably the first thing that we have to do there is really understand the impact of the environment and the impact of those systems on each other.

So, and it's not just single -- a single 5G cell site impacting something flying overhead, it's all of the cell sites that it can possibly see as well as all of the handsets that are on the ground.  So, there's this aggregation effects that we really need to understand at scale how they impact the radar.

And vice versa, we need to understand how the radar -- sending it's radar pulses into the -- into the environment is going to impact the cellular network as well.

Then once we can quantify some of those impacts, we can design the mechanisms to control or share the spectrum with the 5G systems.  One approach that we laid out in the RFP for Hill was essentially something that looks like CBRS essentially.  It's something that controls, the spectrum access is very similar to ways that the spectrum access system does for CRBS.

We also laid out in the RFP that you could come in with new techniques.  Several of our proposers did.  And so, we have some interesting new ideas that we're going to be able to evaluate as well.

So, some of our early work will be in the lab and in closed chambers where we can do some early experimentation and that will evolve very quickly to this field environment where we cannot only do the measurements in a very realistic environment but also test out some of these ideas for viability, again, at scale.

Once that happens, then it's over to the folks that deal with spectrum policy to understand then how to move that forward with industry and the other parts of the government.  Over.

CMDR. FREY:  Okay.  Now, we'll go to Marcus from Defense One.

Q:  I’ll pass.  I will yield to my colleague, Patrick, who's on the line.

CMDR. FREY:  Okay. Patrick

Q:  Thanks.  Can you hear me okay?

CMDR. FREY:  Yes.

Q:  Okay.  Great.  So, back in February, Secretary Esper said that the Defense Department was already spending – he described it as hundreds of millions of dollars, kind of prototypes (inaudible) in four bases around the country.  So, first, can you give me a sense of what has progressed between February to today in terms of preparing to test some of these different concepts (inaudible) spectrum sharing (inaudible) but it seems (inaudible)between February to now in terms of these experiments.

And I also wonder if you can comment (inaudible) on the FCC Ligado decision which I know DOD has testified and opposes.  Would that have any effect on any of those experimentation going forward?  Thanks.  If Ligado, if that contract goes through.  Go ahead.

DR. EVANS:  Okay.  So, yes, so on the first part of the question, you were a little garbled there at different times.  So, I think I caught the gist of the question, but basically, the discussions in earlier this year were essentially talking about our initial efforts to ramp up these sites, these prototyping and experimentation activities at the -- at the sites.

We have really, now, five bases as part of tranche one.  I should just explain that since there's a little bit of a – “is it four or five?” type of thing.  It is five.

And so, we had four initial sites that were selected back in October of 2019.  And then, in the 2020 NDAA, Nellis Air Force Base was specified as a site at which we need to do 5G, roll out a 5G testbed and do some 5G experiments.  And so, we've rolled that into this announcement of the overall activity.  So, that's why there's five rather than four.

So, since February, we have reached out to our industry partners, put together some request for proposals.  I think 15 of them, total.  And we have reached out through those solicitations to industry and gotten an enthusiastic response, a very enthusiastic response which made for a fun summer.

And then we have now gotten to the point of getting the industry players selected and have been moving forward with now finally being able to start deploying at the -- at the bases.

So, there's been a lot -- a lot of activity to get here, but we're pleased that we've been able to move this quickly and we're very enthusiastic about starting work.

As part of all that, of course, we've been working closely with our partners in the services to specify not only what's happening in each of these experiments but also to make sure that they're very much involved in each of the experiments and then, hopefully, future activities to follow.  Over.

Q:  Can you talk on the Ligado -- the Ligado contract.  How does that affect your efforts?

DR. EVANS:  Yes.  Ligado is another -- one of these issues I probably should refer over to DOD CIO.

Q:  Thanks.

CMDR. FREY:  All right.  We will go to Roxana from Bloomberg.  Did you have a question?

Q:  I actually don't at this time.  Thank you very much.

CMDR. FREY:  Okay.  Matt with Defense Daily.

Q:  Thanks.  I just have a quick question about timeline.  So, in terms of each of the pilot programs getting started up, when will that begin?  Do they all kind of follow a similar timeline in terms of how long the work is expected to go?

Thanks.

DR. EVANS:  Thanks.  That's a great question.

And so, these are primarily three-year projects.  And so -- but we are certainly being aggressive in terms of rolling out the testbeds.  And so, we expect to have these testbeds stood up in about -- typically in about a year, and at scale with experimentations starting to ramp up at smaller scale and then full scale within the second year of the within the project.

And then in some of these experiments, for example, the experiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, we're gradually ramping up until -- and finally in year three, we're looking at a brigade-sized deployment of the technology.

So, this varies from experiment to experiment.  But basically, the idea is to get the testbeds deployed quickly and then start ramping up the experimentation as quickly as possible.  Hopefully, that covered that question.  Over.

CMDR. FREY:  All right.  And Chelsea with Breaking Defense.  Did you have a question?

Q:  I did not.

CMDR. FREY:  Okay.  And Andrew with C4I Net.  Did you have a question?

Q:  I do not.  Thank you.

CMDR. FREY:  All right.  Is there anyone on the line that I haven't called or does anyone have any follow-ups?

Q:  Todd Lopez, DOD News.

CMDR. BRYAN:  Okay.  Go ahead, Todd.

Q:  Good afternoon, sir.  Thanks for putting this on for us.  I think in June, y'all announced seven Tranche 2 installations that would be involved in 5G.  And I wonder, for those installations, have RFPs gone out yet and when did the department expect that will have a similar announcement for participants on the Tranche 2 installations?

DR. EVANS:  Yes.  Thanks for asking.  Yes.  So, we have several activities that are spooling up now.  So, the -- as you mentioned the Tranche 2 sites were announced earlier in the summer and we are now at the point of being able to do the first solicitation release and industry day for the Navy and Marines Corp sites involved in Tranche 2.

And so, that's going to be happening through the IWRP, the information warfare research project consortium in mid-October.  And so, that's scheduled, I believe.  And it is scheduled and so those solicitations where we did, anything will be hitting the streets very soon, obviously.

The other sites for the Air Force and Army sites, we expect those to be rolling out through December, and in that case, the -- we'll be using the national spectrum consortium as we did for four of the five sites for Tranche 1.

So, yes.  There's quite a bit going on there.  In addition to that, we also, starting in FY '21, have other parts of our program that we'll be emphasizing and that's what we call or operate through activities which are focused on the security related aspects of 5G and also the innovate beyond 5G the -- to 6G, 7G, and so forth, that part of the program, we will be -- are planning on BAAs, Broad Agency Announcements, on those topics, probably in the January 2021 timeframe.  Over.

Q:  Thanks, sir.

CMDR. FREY:  All right.  Thank you, Dr. Evans.

Was there anyone else that I missed or had a follow-up?

All right.  Thank you everyone for joining us.  And if you do decide -- if you think of something later that you have a question on, please feel free to get back and contact with me and we'll try to get you those answers as soon as we can.  Otherwise, thank you very much for joining us today.