At the Senate Commerce Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) spoke about the need to safeguard our military’s access to spectrum airwaves, especially as the United States engages in heightened competition with China. 

During her remarks, Senator Fischer stressed that innovation can help accommodate competing spectrum requirements – such as dynamic spectrum sharing, which could help satisfy the increasing needs of both the military and the economy for spectrum access. 

Also in the hearing, Senator Fischer highlighted her Rip and Replace legislation and the importance of removing at-risk Chinese equipment from America’s telecommunicationsinfrastructure.

Click the image above to watch video of Sen. Fischer’s remarks

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On Defending Our Networks from Foreign Adversaries:


Senator Fischer: The defense of U.S. networks is critical as foreign threats grow, particularly those in China. For this reason, removing high-risk Chinese equipment from our communications networks should be paramount to this committee's work. Congress cannot simply watch as networks go dark. My bipartisan bill, the Defend Our Networks Act, would tackle this problem head-on. This program shortfall needs our attention, and it needs it now.

On Protecting The Military Use of Spectrum Airwaves:

Senator Fischer: Looking at our nation's management of spectrum, we all know that we must be efficient and innovative. This is true for federal agencies and for non-federal entities that use spectrum. Economically, we face a global race for leadership and technologies these airwaves fuel. But boosting spectrum efficiency cannot come at the cost of harming systems our Department of Defense depends on to keep this country safe. Vital missile defense radar systems operate in Alaska and in Hawaii, using the same key midband spectrum that many corporations seek to obtain.

We cannot deter or defeat China if our radar systems cannot reliably detect, identify, and track an ICBM missile or other incoming threat. And, while this committee often hears about China's ambitions to dominate certain global industries, we must not forget China's focus on expanding and modernizing their military forces. For example, the breathtaking expansion of their nuclear triad. It would be very reckless to sacrifice current and future military capabilities solely for economic gain. And we should not continue to see DOD only as the pot of spectrum gold at the end of the rainbow.

I'm also a senior member on the Armed Services Committee. We are hearing today from our INDOPACOM Combatant Commander as well as our Commander on the Korean Peninsula, both in classified and unclassified briefings. The information presented to SASC today only serves to reinforce my commitment to the duty, the first duty of Congress, and continuing to be sure our military has what it needs in regard to spectrum to protect this nation.

On the Administration’s Dismissal of the DOD’s Spectrum Report:

Senator Fischer: The administration's new National Spectrum Strategy and Implementation Plan further highlights the disjointed communications on spectrum management. Throughout drafting, DOD's work and feedback were heavily omitted and outright rejected. The study that NTIA, our federal spectrum coordinator, co-led with DOD on critical lower three spectrum continues to be dismissed by this administration. That study still hasn't been released publicly to inform this discussion we are having. Senators King, Hirono, and I wrote a letter to the administration about these concerns over a month ago. We still haven't heard back, and I can't say that I'm surprised by that. 

On Dynamic Spectrum Sharing: 

Senator Fischer:
 Dr. Ghosh, DOD has stated that it would undermine our national defense if we displace its systems, especially those in the lower three band. We also know that spectrum sharing systems today use the same trusted 5G supply chain as exclusive spectrum systems – supporting the same supply chain. When dealing with DOD spectrum, can American innovations in spectrum sharing help resolve these intense fights over moving systems to clear bands?

Dr. Monisha Ghosh: Thank you very much for that question. Absolutely. And we have proof of that. CBRS is already doing that. There has been, as far as I'm aware, no documented evidence of interference to any Navy Radar from commercial deployments and CBRS. The way we've done that and CBRS is to move away from the high power exclusively licensed option and investigate low-to-medium power, perhaps indoors sharing options. I will point out that even China has said that the 3.3 to 3.4 gigahertz band is for shared indoor use. I don't know whether they have military operations in that band, but clearly the rest of the world is also looking at different ways of using spectrum so that you can layer on more than one application in the same band. So, dynamic spectrum sharing at low-medium, perhaps indoor power is a great way to protect the DOD, not having them leave the band, but add on other services on top of it.

On Declassifying the DOD’s Spectrum Report and its Findings:

Senator Fischer:
 In your briefings, have you had detailed explanations from DOD on current systems that, many are classified, on current systems and the effect it would have on them? Radars, F35s?

Dr. Monisha Ghosh: Yes, I actually participated in the PATHSS effort between NTIA and DOD, the one that you just referred to. I think that collaboration worked exceedingly well. There was academia in the room. There was industry. There were government agencies. I agree with you. It'd be nice to see the public report come out of the work that went into doing that. But we are continuing some of those efforts within academia. We are still engaged in looking at how 5G can coexist at different power levels with DOD operations.

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