Pentagon sets up new 5G shop

5G network (jamesteohart/

Michael Griffin, the Defense Department undersecretary for research and engineering, said the department is in the midst of adding assistant directors to lead the "strategic shaping" of each of the Pentagon's modernization efforts, specifically 5G.

"We will shortly be bringing on board an assistant director for 5G ... and similarly for all our other [areas]," Griffin said during a Hudson Institute event Aug. 13.

Griffin said he came into office expecting to make hypersonics capability a priority and was less convinced of DOD's need to foray into 5G, saying he was "less sensitive and educated" to issues like microelectronics and 5G.

He told Congress during March 28 hearing that the telecommunications technology was "in its infancy everywhere in the world." It was too immature to be operationalized by DOD, he said, and it "encompasses both standards and hardware -- and much of that is hardware that needs to be developed."

Now, however, "we are aware that commercial initiatives in telecommunications far outstrips anything that we can do and would want to do in DOD," Griffin said.

Deputy Research and Engineering Undersecretary Lisa Porter is leading the DOD's 5G strategy and initiatives, including testing at military bases, Griffin said. Congress and the Office of Management and Budget are expected to review the plans this year.

Griffin indicated that when it comes to the network, everything is simultaneously a threat risk and a promise of something better.

"The advantage of 5G, succinctly stated, is everything is part of the network," he said. "The disadvantage of 5G is everything is part of the system -- everything is a part of the attack surface."

To cope, Griffin said that DOD will have to get used to working in untrustworthy networks. "Everything electromagnetic now becomes a potential threat as well as a potential promise," he said. "We're going to have to learn to have trusted communications in untrusted networks because we will never be able to certify perfect hardware."

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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