WASHINGTON — The shift of 5G workloads away from the U.S. Department of Defense’s research and engineering arm to its chief information officer signals a change in thinking, according to an official involved in the handoff.

The Pentagon considers the development and uptake of fifth-generation wireless technologies critical to international competition and future military connectivity. Its deployment has been incremental, however, and global jostling with China’s Huawei and ZTE, among other players, remains fierce.

The 5G portfolio transition coincided with the start of the government’s fiscal 2024. The move was also in line with the wishes of lawmakers, who in legislation sought the change as well as a road map for the tech’s widespread adoption.

“We’re working closely together with [the CIO] to complete the research aspects of 5G that we’ve been running for the past three years, while they’re taking over the mature technologies that are ready for that scaling, implementation and transition to the services,” Thomas Rondeau, the Pentagon’s principal director for FutureG, said at an event moderated by C4ISRNET at the Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank. “This was part of the plan.”

The shift frees up Rondeau and others to examine what lies beyond 5G.

“There’s certainly a FutureG for as far as I can fathom. This is a moving sidewalk,” he said. “Roughly every 10 years, they’re coming out with another generation of technologies. What is 6G going to look like?”

The 5G takeover was teased earlier this year by CIO John Sherman, who said he and his team were working “left seat, right seat” with Heidi Shyu, the Pentagon’s chief technology officer, to ensure things went smoothly.

More than $600 million has been committed to 5G experimentation at military installations across the U.S. The fifth generation fueled smart-warehousing and augmented-reality trials at Naval Base San Diego in California and distributed command-and-control testing at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Sherman has said the experiments were fruitful. He also said he would like to see follow-ups, particularly regarding open radio access networks.

“This is something that we, at DoD, can help catalyze,” Sherman said in May.

Colin Demarest was a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covered military networks, cyber and IT. Colin had previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

More In 5G