Norquist, Deasy Meet With FCC Chairman on Ligado

 In Defense

A high level del­e­ga­tion from the Pentagon vis­it­ed the offices of the Federal Communications Commission Friday to make an in-person, clas­si­fied case for why the Defense Department believes the commission’s approval of Ligado Networks spec­trum plan will cause major harm to the Global Positioning System, C4ISRNET has learned.

The del­e­ga­tion was led by Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist, the department’s number two official. He was joined by chief infor­ma­tion offi­cer Dana Deasy, as well as Lt. Gen. Brad Shwedo, the Joint Staff’s head of C4 and cyber, and Lt. Gen. David Thompson, vice com­man­der of U.S. Space Force, plus tech­ni­cal staff.

The group met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, as well as Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. Because of FCC rules on what con­sti­tutes an open meet­ing, the clas­si­fied brief­ing could not be pre­sent­ed to the entire five-person group of com­mis­sion­ers at once. Two more meet­ings are sched­uled to brief the com­mis­sion­ers on Monday and Tuesday, although it is unclear if Norquist will be attend­ing those as well.

The fact that Norquist trav­eled to the FCC’s office, rather than invit­ing the com­mis­sion­er to the Pentagon, shows the effort the depart­ment is putting toward trying to change the com­mis­sion­ers’ minds fol­low­ing the unan­i­mous 5 – 0 vote in favor of Ligado’s request, a gov­ern­ment offi­cial famil­iar with the meet­ing said.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, plans to introduce legislation aiming at Ligado Networks. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Sen. Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, plans to introduce legislation aiming at Ligado Networks. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

That offi­cial added that the dis­cus­sion with Pai in par­tic­u­lar occurred at the tech­ni­cal level. The dis­cus­sions were described as non-com­bat­ive, which rep­re­sents a very dif­fer­ent tone than the public statements from both sides over the last two months, during which the Pentagon and its sup­port­ers have accused the FCC of acting in secret to approve Ligado’s long­stand­ing request to use L‑Band spec­trum.

The effort from the Pentagon coin­cides with leg­isla­tive attacks on Ligado, led by Senate Armed Services Committee chair­man Sen. Jim Inhofe, R‑Okla., who intends to intro­duce new leg­is­la­tion next week aimed at impos­ing new costs on the com­pa­ny.

Asked to com­ment, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Carver said the depart­ment “remains opposed to the Ligado pro­pos­al. We will not com­ment on pre-deci­sion­al, inter­a­gency dis­cus­sions.” A spokesman for the FCC declined to com­ment.

The FCC voted unanimously April 20 to approve the plan from Ligado net­works to use L‑Band, described as the range of fre­quen­cies between 1 to 2 GHz. L‑Band is vital to GPS and other inter­na­tion­al nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems because it can easily pen­e­trate clouds, fog, rain and veg­e­ta­tion. Ligado owns a license to oper­ate the spec­trum near GPS, which it says it will use to build a 5G net­work to boost con­nec­tiv­i­ty for the indus­tri­al “inter­net of things” market.

However, oppo­nents — includ­ing the Department of Defense and a number of non-defense indus­try trade groups — argue that Ligado’s plan would create wide rang­ing dis­rup­tions for GPS usage, hurt­ing both warfight­ers and com­mer­cial ven­tures in the United States. Ligado has pushed back at those claims.

C4ISRNET source|articles

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