As Defense Department officials and lawmakers have loudly protested the FCC’s recent decision to approve a new commercial L-Band network for 5G, the top military official at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has added his voice to the fray.
The fact that numerous government agencies have come together to state their opposition to the FCC’s determination to allow Ligado to build its new network in spectrum used by the U.S. military for GPS should show how concerning the move is, said Maj. Gen. Michael Guetlein, NRO deputy director in an April 24 Mitchell Institute teleconference.
“When you have … eight federal agencies come together to strongly oppose something, you know there’s a big issue here,” he said.
The FCC earlier this week approved Ligado’s longstanding request to repurpose spectrum adjacent to GPS frequencies for a new 5G network, although defense officials have argued for years that it could cause harmful interference to GPS receivers.
“GPS has permeated every element of our society,” Guetlein noted. “We use it for everything. … It runs the way we have gotten used to living on a day to day basis. The FCC’s determination to consider this is putting all of that at risk.”
The commission has promised Ligado’s request approval is conditional upon efforts to prevent GPS interference. Army Brig. Gen. Thomas James, commander of U.S. Space Command’s Joint Task Force Space Defense, said the U.S. military needs to see how those efforts would work.
“I would want to see personally the analysis that can convince us that there’s a plan in place that allows that to happen, without causing any significant effects to our signals,” he said during the Friday teleconference.
James noted that “there is no such thing as friendly fire.”
“My job in [the Joint Task Force] is to protect our assets and protect our linkages and access to them,” he said. “Even if it has use for us in a good fashion, it’s not nefarious. But if it threatens our ability to use systems that we’re so dependent [upon], that’s a reason for me to be concerned.”