Don't compromise spectrum stake

Recent proposals that would reduce the amount of radio spectrum available to federal agencies are not just a concern for the Pentagon and other pockets of spectrum users but a matter of national interest.

Of course, the economic pressures from private industry are great. The European Community hopes to relieve frequency congestion by opening up a band of the spectrum that carries Global Positioning System transmissions. Congress, in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, mandated that federal agencies auction off 20 MHz of the spectrum to private users within the next four years, potentially raising $2 billion.

But these proposals are fraught with danger. The European proposal could undermine the integrity of command and control, aviation and other mission-critical systems as well as hinder the development of future GPS applications. Meanwhile, DOD estimates it will spend $1 billion or more to reconfigure systems to use other areas of the spectrum after the auction.

Clearly, satellite communication, like the Internet, has become a worldwide phenomenon, and the U.S. government must recognize the interests of other spectrum users.

However, with the Defense and aviation communities envisioning ever greater dependence on GPS, the United States cannot afford to compromise its stake in the spectrum.

A last-ditch effort defeated the European proposal, but only for further study. Members of the GPS community say the proposal will resurface in 1999, putting U.S. security interests at risk once again. The government must carefully scrutinize any proposal that threatens current and future use of GPS, and it must defend its position adamantly.

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