DOD asks Congress to save more radio frequencies for military

The Defense Department's chief information officer and top brass today implored Congress to pass new legislation to rein in the commercial use and sale of the electromagnetic frequency spectrum and warned that the lack of a national spectrum strategy could affect the military's ability to operate effectively in the 21st century.

Arthur L. Money, DOD's CIO, told a sparsely attended joint hearing of the Procurement and Research and Development subcommittees of the House Armed Services Committee that despite the pressure to make additional portions of the frequency spectrum available to the public, "it is equally important [that] we consider the impact to national security in these deliberations and understand the full costs in terms of security and dollars [that] spectrum reallocation incurs."

As it relies more on information technology to fight future battles, DOD needs more frequencies to carry data, such as digital images and logistics information. But the amount of available spectrum has decreased recently as the Federal Communications Commission has auctioned off a substantial portion of the federal radio frequency spectrum to cellular telephone companies, mobile satellite operators and other commercial firms as mandated by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The sales have sparked a heated debate throughout the Pentagon, particularly concerning the sales of frequencies historically used by the military during training and other real-world contingencies.

DOD wants Congress to update the 1934 Telecommunications Act, which governs frequency spectrum matters. "It is time to update that legislation so that it reflects today's realities," Money said.

Lt. Gen. John L. Woodward, director of command, control, communications and computer (C4) systems for DOD's Joint Staff, told committee members that although the sale of spectrum is "economically lucrative," a national spectrum strategy is urgently needed to avoid future impacts on military readiness.

"Loss of spectrum and spectrum pricing is having a serious impact on the warfighter...and future military operational readiness," Woodward said. "Without spectrum, we lose our mobility and potentially the campaign."

Likewise, Lt. Gen. William H. Campbell, director of C4 for the Army, also highlighted the disappearance of available spectrum as a pressing issue facing the Army's digitization effort. "Digitization requires greater electromagnetic spectrum access rather than less," Campbell said. "The DOD, as primary users of...the electromagenetic spectrum, will experience major costs impacts and impairments to critical missions as a result of the allocations."

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