Air Force factoring spectrum reallocation into integration plans

U.S. Air Force integration efforts focusing on joint information operations that include a new aerial network are also geared toward mitigating the effects of upcoming spectrum auctions on service operations that will likely require more, not less, spectrum.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Brian Killough, director of warfighter systems integration in the office of the Air Force CIO, told an industry group on Oct. 4 that one of his challenges is to deliver uninterrupted mission capabilities while reallocating frequency bands. The federal government is expected to begin spectrum auctions as early as 2015, and DOD planners are scrambling to determine how best to maximize the use of remaining military spectrum.

“We have to bridge the gap between functional areas,” Killough said. The Air Force’s spectrum transition plan focuses on either moving operations off of certain frequencies or simply using less spectrum, he added.

In response to growing commercial demand for new frequencies that could be used for emerging mobile applications, federal spectrum auctions are designed to shift the military services and other government agencies off of some frequency bands while generating revenue the government can use to fund existing programs. Killough said funds raised during U.S. spectrum auctions must flow back to DOD programs affected by the spectrum auctions, not to individual services managing a particular program.

In August , a group of senators called on DOD and other agencies to expedite plans to vacate spectrum in advance of the auctions scheduled to begin in February 2015. At issue is the 1750-1780 megahertz band now used by the Pentagon. Those frequencies are being eyed by commercial carriers since they are widely used overseas.

Lawmakers have been pressing DOD to come up with plan to vacate the 1750-1780 MHz band by January 2014 if they are to be included in 2015 spectrum auctions.

Along with helping to implement DoD’s Joint Information Environment, Killough said his integration office also is focusing on delivering the service’s Joint Aerial Layer Network designed to improve communications between “disparate platforms” like the F-22 and F-35 fighters. The two aircraft are currently unable to communicate over existing Air Force networks, Killough noted.

“You don’t know when integration is working,” he added, “but you do know when it’s not.”

About the Author

George Leopold is a contributing editor for Defense Systems and author of Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom."Connect with him on Twitter at @gleopold1.

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