WASHINGTON ― Lawmakers took another apparent jab at Ligado Networks on Wednesday as the House Armed Services Committee passed a ban on the Pentagon awarding contracts to firms that interfere with Global Positioning System signals.
The panel adopted an amendment from House Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner to bar the Department of Defense from contracting with an entity that engages in commercial terrestrial operations using certain frequency ranges ― unless the defense secretary certifies the operations do not cause harmful interference to a the military’s GPS devices.
Ligado is not specifically named. However, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously approved the plan from Ligado to use the bands identified in the amendment: the 1525–1559 MHz band and the 1626.5–1660.5 MHz band.
The FCC’s decision in April came despite objections from the DoD and a number of nondefense industry trade groups, which argue that Ligado’s plan would create wide-ranging disruptions for GPS usage.
During the markup, the panel approved a separate amendment from Turner that would bar DoD from spending any money to mitigate impacts from Ligado’s potential interference with the military’s GPS signals.
The moves by lawmakers during the HASC’s markup of its version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act is the latest salvo from lawmakers on Congress’ defense committees. Earlier this month, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., offered legislation that would require the company to cover the costs of any GPS user — government or commercial — hurt by its spectrum use.
Turner, a defense hawk in Congress, is among 22 HASC members who called on the FCC to reverse its support for Ligado’s plan. He has called for an inspector general to probe consulting company Roberson and Associates, the firm that determined Ligado’s plan wouldn’t cause GPS interference.
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.