The Secretary of Defense is urging the Federal Communications Commission to overturn its approval of Ligado Networks’ plan for a new commercial L-Band network for 5G infrastructure, saying Tuesday the move could “could disrupt GPS signals relied upon by our military and millions of Americans.”

Mark Esper’s comments to reporters arrive the day before senior Pentagon officials are set to testify in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on the department’s opposition to the decision.

“The FCC’s actions disregard the many objections of industry and the interagency grounded in years of hard data and science. Ultimately, this will cause harmful interference to the GPS network, jeopardizing our nation’s security, prosperity and way of life. We urge the FCC to overturn its shortsighted decision,” Esper said.

In April, the FCC unanimously approved Ligado’s application to deploy a low-power terrestrial nationwide network in the L-band to support 5G and Internet of Things services (IoT), despite concerns from DoD, the GPS Innovation Alliance, and satellite firm Iridium that the move could negatively interfere with GPS receivers (Defense Daily, April 21). 

Esper said the witnesses at Wednesday’s hearing, to include DoD CIO Dana Deasy, Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research engineering, and Air Force Gen. John Raymond, Space Force’s chief of space operations, will detail security risks associated with the FCC’s decision.

SASC leadership, along with their House Armed Services counterparts, released a statement last month announcing similar opposition to the FCC’s decision, adding the decision was made “under the cover of darkness.”

“Considering the risks, it’s clear the FCC commissioners made the wrong decision regarding Ligado’s plan, which will set a disastrous precedent while impeding ongoing work on spectrum sharing. The vulnerabilities to our national and economic security are not worth the risk, particularly for a band of spectrum that isn’t necessary to secure a robust 5G network,” the lawmakers wrote in their April 22 statement.