Cyber Defense

DOD seeks agility after spectrum shift

The Defense Department must be more agile and squeeze more capacity out of available spectrum as it prepares to shift to new frequency bands, DOD’s deputy CIO told an industry conference on Oct. 30.

Air Force Major General Robert Wheeler, deputy chief for C4 and information infrastructure capabilities, described ongoing spectrum reallocation plans that require DOD’s shift to two new frequency bands: 1755 to 1850 megahertz and 2025 to 2110 megahertz. The military will move off of spectrum bands located at 1710 to 1755 megahertz that will be auctioned as early as next year for new commercial wireless applications.

Wheeler said he expects an “orderly change to different bands” over the next several years, adding that the spectrum reallocation process seeks to head off the possibility of another spectrum move by DOD several years down the road.

The spectrum shifts come as demand for more bandwidth is growing in both the commercial and military sectors. How to balance DOD needs with U.S. economic competitiveness is “really the issue at hand,” Wheeler told AOC 2013, the electronic warfare industry’s annual conference.

Wheeler sought to reassure conference attendees that DOD would continue to develop advanced electronics capabilities at the higher frequencies. He stressed that legislative language requires that certain funds generated by spectrum auctions will be earmarked to fund DOD programs. Both Senate and House armed services panels are “very protective” of the revenue provision, Wheeler added.

Wheeler and other senior defense officials at the conference stressed that growing demand for spectrum and the shift to secure mobile forces will require flexibility and agility, including increased sharing of spectrum. This could range from geographic to temporal sharing. The latter might include “dynamic sharing” of spectrum over the course of a day or a scenario in which commercial broadband “flips” to a priority user in an emergency, Wheeler said.

“Making sure we get this sharing right, that is critical,” he added.

Given the growing emphasis on cyber security, DOD’s spectrum strategy seeks to merge electronic warfare capabilities with spectrum management. These activities are being coordinated by Wheeler’s office under a service electronic warfare effort called Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations.  

Before there was cyber, Wheeler said, there was electronic warfare. “Combine the two and you get spectrum warfare.”

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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