Spectrum Strategy Paves Way for New Technologies
Spectrum Strategy Paves Way
for New Technologies
By Claudette Roulo, American
Forces Press Service.
Washington D.C. – (AFPS)
– February 20, 2014 – The Defense Department’s chief information officer today
unveiled the Pentagon’s strategy for addressing the ever-increasing demand for
wireless spectrum to achieve national security goals. “All of our joint
functions, our ability to fight, our movement and maneuver, fires, command and
control, intelligence, protection and sustainment are accomplished with systems
that depend on spectrum,” Teri Takai said.
Today’s strategy announcement puts DOD on the path to
developing a comprehensive implementation plan that will address spectrum
shortages, she said.
“The safety and security of U.S. citizens, the effectiveness
of our U.S. combat forces, and the lives of our U.S. military members, our
allies, and noncombatants depend on spectrum access more than ever,” Takai said.
Wireless technologies can be found in practically every piece
of electronics currently available. Televisions, refrigerators and even cars are
communicating via Wi-Fi, and DOD is seeing the same exponential growth of
wireless usage in its equipment. “I used to say that everything's connected to
the network except for if you carry around a weapon, and I was very quickly
corrected that no, in fact, most of our weaponry is facilitated by position
navigation and timing -- or what you'd call GPS,” Takai said in an interview
with American Forces Press Service. “All of that is dependent upon the networks,
which are … when we use wireless, dependent upon spectrum.”
Spectrum is a finite resource, she said. Every new device
places an additional demand on the network. While wireless devices are governed
by a standard that directs what frequencies they can use, each additional device
takes up a certain amount of space on its assigned set of frequencies. Most of
the time, there’s enough room in the device standard for many connections, but
as the number of wireless devices increases, so does the potential for conflict,
she said. This can lead to slow or inaccessible networks, and it can become a
public safety risk or a threat to national security. For example, numerous
problems were reported with cellphone networks overwhelmed by a surge in traffic
following the bombings at the Boston Marathon last year.
So, in 2010, President Barack Obama signed an executive order
directing federal agencies to make 500 MHz of federal and nonfederal spectrum
available over the next 10 years, suitable for both mobile and fixed wireless
The spectrum strategy outlines the department’s objectives
for achieving the president’s vision, Takai said. The DOD is examining a number
of options for freeing up bandwidth -- continuous sets of frequencies -- on the
wireless spectrum. Among the challenges facing DOD is the fact that parts of the
wireless spectrum are unsuitable for national security purposes, she said.
To overcome this challenge, Takai said, the first goal of the
strategy is to improve the technology in DOD’s spectrum-dependent systems.
Technologies currently in development could manage network demands by allowing
for dynamic sharing of frequencies, more efficiently compressing data or by
using time-based frequency sharing.
The second objective is to improve the flexibility of DOD’s
spectrum operations, she said. “Simply put, DOD spectrum-based operations must
be able to move with and adjust to the spectrum environment as it changes,”
Takai said, noting that this process begins with acquisitions.
Third, she said, is increasing the participation of the DOD in spectrum
regulatory policy discussions.
“Effective engagement in the development of policies helps us
to better influence new regulatory developments in a way that enhances sharing
opportunities and increases the agility of our spectrum use,” Takai said.
The release of the spectrum strategy is just the first step,
she said. Over the next six months, the department will develop an
implementation plan that will take into account the strategy’s goals as well as
the practical issues inherent in reallocating space on the electromagnetic
spectrum. Ideally, Takai said, the coming changes to spectrum allocation will be
invisible to the warfighter.
“The whole idea behind the spectrum strategy is to try to get
ahead of this increasing demand so that they don't have to operate with radios
that are either more difficult to use or that have to be re-calibrated.” Instead,
the next generation of devices that operate on the wireless spectrum would
contain technology flexible enough to adjust to the frequency requirements of
the operational environment, Takai said.
The department is partnering with the private sector to
develop new technologies that will provide warfighters with the flexibility they
need to operate in the next battlespace. “If we can work together on commercial
technologies and innovative technologies, those technologies are going to be
applicable to us just as they are applicable to industry,” Takai said.
The effort to find better ways to use the wireless spectrum
isn’t just about freeing up bandwidth. “It's really about enabling one of our
Press Briefing on Release of DoD Electromagnetic Spectrum Strategy
Special Report: Science and Technology
DOD Electromagnetic Spectrum Strategy