Battlefield Tech

Senate committee planning Ligado hearing on GPS interference

The Senate Armed Services Committee is planning to hold a hearing where top Pentagon officials will lay out their concerns over the recent approval by the Federal Communications Commission to allow Ligado to access L-Band spectrum.

A SASC aide confirmed to C4ISRNET the committee is putting a hearing together, “likely middle of next week,” following the Senate’s return to Washington. However, the aide stressed that no date or witnesses have been locked in.

Another source said that the hearing will likely include some combination of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond, DoD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy, and/or undersecretary of defense for research and engineering Michael Griffin.

For years, department officials have argued that allowing Ligado access to L-Band will interfere with Global Positioning System capabilities, both for military and civilian use. Despite those concerns, the FCC voted unanimously on April 17 to move forward with Ligado’s plan.

Days later, an exclusive op-ed for C4ISRNET, the chairmen and ranking members of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees urged the FCC to reconsider, warning that the plan “could cost taxpayers and consumers billions of dollars and require the replacement of current GPS equipment just as we are trying to get our economy back on its feet quickly.”

The lawmakers added, “we expect the FCC to resolve Department of Defense concerns before moving forward, as required by law. If they do not, and unless President Trump intervenes to stop this from moving forward, it will be up to Congress to clean up this mess.”

Now, the committee appears to be making the first move in that direction. If the invitation list holds, it will provide a platform for the department leaders who have been among the most vocal critics of Ligado’s plan.

Griffin and Deasy co-authored a March 12 letter, first reported by C4ISRNET, asking the FCC not to go ahead with the move. On April 13, Deasy told reporters “we continue to believe it’s in the best interests — and I believe I can say this on behalf of all the agencies — it’s in the interest of the government not to pursue the Ligado licensing request.”

And on April 22, Goldfein said he and Raymond were in the early steps of finding ways to “mitigate” the damage that GPS would suffer from under the Ligado plan.

Whether representatives from Ligado will be invited to attend is unclear. Defenders of the company’s plan argue that L-band is necessary to grow the capabilities needed for an “internet of things” economy to bloom, while citing data that testing shows GPS should not be impacted by the use of the spectrum.

Joe Gould in Washington contributed to this report.

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