Defense Communications:

Federal Frequency Spectrum Sale Could Impair Military Operations

NSIAD-97-131: Published: Jun 17, 1997. Publicly Released: Jun 17, 1997.

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GAO reviewed the transfer of certain frequency spectrum from the Navy's Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) Program to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for reallocation to the private sector, focusing on whether: (1) the capabilities of the CEC program could be adversely affected by this transfer; (2) other systems could also be adversely affected by this transfer; and (3) the Department of Defense (DOD), FCC, and the Department of Commerce are taking appropriate and adequate steps to prevent or minimize such impairment. GAO also discussed potential actions that could more effectively achieve the intent of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 to minimize negative impacts of frequency reallocation on the federal government.

GAO noted that: (1) national security and cost implications of the federal frequency losses to CEC and other military systems were not fully considered in 1995 and have still not been adequately assessed; (2) the loss of the portion of the frequency spectrum used by CEC could reduce its capability in peacetime training operations and make it incapable of joint (multiservice) operations similar in size to Operation Desert Storm; (3) other current systems could be adversely affected by an increase in mutual interference problems; (4) in addition, new spectrum requirements for information warfare systems could suffer from a lack of needed frequency spectrum; (5) however, the full DOD-wide cost and operational impact from the frequency loss has not been established because spectrum management planning in DOD is fragmented and inadequate; (6) in some instances, prior National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) assessments of requirements and availability of frequency spectrum for transfer to the public could be incomplete because of security issues; (7) security classifications restrict release of pertinent technical information about many DOD programs; (8) as a result, transferred spectrum is threatened by potential interference problems; (9) DOD has cleared key NTIA, FCC, and other federal spectrum personnel to promote better spectrum planning; (10) however, GAO believes more effective and cooperative actions to exchange data and establish commercial standards can be taken by DOD, FCC, and Commerce, thus ensuring that sufficient frequency spectrum is available to operate major national security systems with minimal interference to, and by, commercial systems; and (11) the licensing of frequencies affecting CEC should not begin until DOD has completed an ongoing assessment of its total requirements and reported its finding to the Congress and the President.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: No further action is required. DOD officials said they and the FCC reached an agreement to move the 50 MHZ to another location more favorable to the CEC program. In addition, the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000 (section 1062) states that surrender of DOD frequencies is authorized only if the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of Commerce jointly certify to Congress that the surrender of such portions of the spectrum will not degrade essential military capability. A report to the Congress and the President is required on the progress made on implementation of national spectrum planning, the reallocation of federal government spectrum to non-federal use, and the implications of such reallocations to the affected federal agencies, which would include the effects of the reallocation on critical military and intelligence capabilities, civil space programs, and other federal government systems used to protect public safety.

    Matter: To allow these agencies time to complete their evaluations, the Congress may wish to relax FCC's deadline of August 4, 1998 for issuing licenses for 10 MHz of the reallocated 50 megahertz (MHz) of CEC spectrum.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has established a Director, Spectrum Management position within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (OASD) for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (C3I). DOD also established the Office of Spectrum Analysis and Management (OASM) within the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). OASM is the focal point to coordinate analytical support, ensure consistent enforcement of spectrum management policy and procedures DOD-wide, and to position the DOD to ensure spectrum access into the 21st century. Among its functions, the new office provides advocacy, oversight, and enforcement of spectrum policy, develops policy guidance for the DOD, and provides strategic planning capability for spectrum management. However, OSD/C3I and OASM do not speak for all DOD; the Army, Navy, and Air Force claim rights under Title X to represent themselves on spectrum issues within DOD and to outside spectrum regulatory bodies.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should assign responsibility for overall DOD spectrum management to a specific organization.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Other action was taken to mitigate effects of the original problem. DOD officials said they and the FCC reached an agreement to move the 50 MHZ to another location more favorable to the CEC program. In addition, the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000 (section 1062) states that surrender of DOD frequencies is authorized only if the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of Commerce jointly certify to Congress that the surrender of such portions of the spectrum will not degrade essential military capability. A report to the Congress and the President is required on the progress made on implementation of national spectrum planning, the reallocation of federal government spectrum to non-federal use, and the implications of such reallocations to the affected federal agencies, which would include the effects of the reallocation on critical military and intelligence capabilities, civil space programs, and other federal government systems used to protect public safety.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should expand and complete the ongoing DOD frequency requirements study. This study should include analyses on how: (1) the transfer of the 50 MHz in the CEC band and other transfers of federal frequency spectrum to the commercial sector could affect CEC and the other critical military systems in its study; and (2) DOD plans to modify CEC and other critical systems, including estimated costs and schedule, to compensate for operational degradation caused by the transferred spectrum.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As indicated with respect to prior recommendations, other actions have been taken to mitigate the problem. In addition, the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000 (section 1062) states that surrender of DOD frequencies is authorized only if the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of Commerce jointly certify to Congress that the surrender of such portions of the spectrum will not degrade essential military capability. A report to the Congress and the President is required on the progress made on implementation of national spectrum planning, the reallocation of federal government spectrum to non-federal use, and the implications of such reallocations to the affected federal agencies, which would include the effects of the reallocation on critical military and intelligence capabilities, civil space programs, and other federal government systems used to protect public safety.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should submit the results of the study to the President for his use in considering whether to reclaim the transferred 50 MHz spectrum.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As indicated with respect to prior recommendations, other action has been taken to mitigate effects of the problem. In addition, the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000 (section 1062) states that surrender of DOD frequencies is authorized only if the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of Commerce jointly certify to Congress that the surrender of such portions of the spectrum will not degrade essential military capability. A report to the Congress and the President is required on the progress made on implementation of national spectrum planning, the reallocation of federal government spectrum to non-federal use, and the implications of such reallocations to the affected federal agencies, which would include the effects of the reallocation on critical military and intelligence capabilities, civil space programs, and other federal government systems used to protect public safety.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should submit the results of the study to the Congress including, if necessary, proposals for legislative modifications.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As indicated with respect to previous recommendations, DOD and the FCC reached agreement to provide different frequencies for CEC. In addition, the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000 (section 1062) states that surrender of DOD frequencies is authorized only if the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of Commerce jointly certify to Congress that the surrender of such portions of the spectrum will not degrade essential military capability. A report to the Congress and the President is required on the progress made on implementation of national spectrum planning, the reallocation of federal government spectrum to non-federal use, and the implications of such reallocations to the affected federal agencies, which would include the effects of the reallocation on critical military and intelligence capabilities, civil space programs, and other federal government systems used to protect public safety.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, should suspend plans for auctioning the 50 MHz from the CEC operating band and other transfers of spectrum until the Congress and the President have reviewed the DOD report transmitting the results from the ongoing review of its frequency requirements.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000 (section 1062) requires the Secretary of Commerce, in coordination with the Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, to review implementation of national spectrum planning, the reallocation of federal government spectrum to non-federal use, and the implications of such reallocations to the affected federal agencies. This assessment is to include the effects of spectrum reallocation on critical military and intelligence capabilities, civil space programs, and other federal government systems used to protect public safety. A joint report by the Secretary and the Chairman is required by October 1, 2000, on the results of the above assessment.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, and the Secretary of Commerce should submit a joint report to the Congress on their progress in implementing the 1993 act requirements on joint spectrum planning, any unresolved issues, and impediments to the resolution of these issues, including proposals for legislative modifications.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000 (section 1062) states that surrender of DOD frequencies is authorized only if the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of Commerce jointly certify to Congress that the surrender of such portions of the spectrum will not degrade essential military capability. A report to the Congress and the President is required on the progress made on implementation of national spectrum planning, the reallocation of federal government spectrum to non-federal use, and the implications of such reallocations to the affected federal agencies, which would include the effects of the reallocation on critical military and intelligence capabilities, civil space programs, and other federal government systems used to protect public safety.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, and the Secretary of Commerce should submit a joint report to the Congress on their progress in implementing the 1993 act requirements on joint spectrum planning, any unresolved issues, and impediments to the resolution of these issues, including proposals for legislative modifications.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Other action was taken to mitigate effects of the original problem. DOD officials said they and the FCC reached an agreement to move the 50 MHZ to another location more favorable to the CEC program. In addition, the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000 (section 1062) states that surrender of DOD frequencies is authorized only if the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of Commerce jointly certify to Congress that the surrender of such portions of the spectrum will not degrade essential military capability. A report to the Congress and the President is required on the progress made on implementation of national spectrum planning, the reallocation of federal government spectrum to non-federal use, and the implications of such reallocations to the affected federal agencies, which would include the effects of the reallocation on critical military and intelligence capabilities, civil space programs, and other federal government systems used to protect public safety.

    Recommendation: The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs should, in his role of integrating all aspects of national security policy: (1) review actions taken as a result of the above recommendations for national security implications; and (2) on the basis of his findings, advise the President whether he should exercise his authority to recover the 50 MHz for federal government use in the CEC program and how he should proceed with any future proposal for transfer of DOD-assigned federal spectrum.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: National Security Council

 

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