Bush demands spectrum plans

President Bush's Executive Memorandum on Improving Spectrum Management

Within a year, President Bush wants federal agencies to have specific plans to use new technologies dependent on the radio frequency spectrum and apply more efficient approaches to meet such needs.

In his executive memorandum dated Nov. 30, Bush outlined steps that officials should take to develop and integrate agency-specific spectrum plans. According to the memorandum, the existing legal and policy framework for spectrum management is outdated, and the review process is cumbersome.

"This process is often slow and inflexible and can discourage the introduction of new technologies," according to the memorandum. "Some spectrum users, including government agencies, have argued that the existing spectrum process is insufficiently responsive to the need to protect current critical uses."

Officials regard the radio spectrum as a valuable but finite resource, an "electromagnetic real estate in the sky" that cannot be created or increased but reallocated and managed. The spectrum is becoming a scarce resource as more new technologies occupy it. Federal, state and local public safety officials have complained that the bands of the spectrum they occupy are inadequate and fragmented.

In May 2003, Bush established an initiative to develop and implement a new spectrum policy. Based on the policy, a federal task force led by Commerce Department officials released two reports in June that listed 24 recommendations to improve spectrum management. Bush's recent order is a product of those reports.

The memorandum instructs agencies to develop specific plans that outline spectrum requirements, including bandwidth and frequency location for future technologies or services, planned uses of new technologies or expanded services, and suggested approaches to meeting spectrum requirements.

Agency officials have until Dec. 1, 2005, to develop their plans, which must then be updated biennially. They must also provide analyses and assessments to National Telecommunications and Information Administration officials so they can properly review the agencies' proposed needs. The NTIA administers spectrum management policies for federal government users, while the Federal Communications Commission administers policies for all other users.

Bush also ordered Office of Management and Budget officials to help agencies improve capital planning and investment procedures in identifying spectrum costs. OMB officials must develop such guidance within six months.

The memorandum also orders the Homeland Security Department secretary — with input from other federal, state, local, tribal and regional agencies — to identify public safety spectrum needs within six months and then develop a comprehensive spectrum needs plan by Dec. 1, 2005.

By June 2006, the Commerce secretary must develop a federal spectrum plan by integrating the agency-specific plans and DHS-crafted spectrum needs plan, according to the memorandum. This federal plan will assist in the development of a national plan,. Commerce officials must also develop a plan "for identifying and implementing incentives that promote more efficient and effective use of the spectrum while protecting national and homeland security, critical infrastructure and government services."

In a statement, Michael Gallagher, Commerce's assistant secretary for communications and information, said federal support for the spectrum management policy is historic.

"The next steps will be the development of a Federal Strategic Spectrum Plan, the creation of incentives to promote efficient and effective spectrum use for federal agencies, as well as new IT applications and the development of a spectrum sharing and innovation test bed," he said.

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