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Testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary Gallagher on Managing Radio Frequency Spectrum: Military Readiness and National Security

April 23, 2002
Testimony of Michael D. Gallagher
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Department of Commerce
before the
Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Relations
Committee on Government Reform
House of Representatives

on Managing Radio Frequency Spectrum: Military Readiness and National Security

April 23, 2002

Chairman Shays, I would like to thank you and the members of the Subcommittee for inviting me here to testify today on frequency spectrum matters relating to issues that affect military readiness, the war on terrorism and homeland defense. I am Mike Gallagher, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Department of Commerce. 

NTIA serves as the President's principal advisor on telecommunication policies. On the President's behalf, NTIA also manages the radio frequency spectrum used by the Federal agencies in satisfying their missions. In this role, NTIA processes the Federal agencies' request for frequency assignments; coordinates current and future spectrum requirements among the Federal agencies; and along with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of State, develops and promotes the United States' positions on spectrum management issues within international treaty bodies and other fora. Because of its unique role as policy adviser and spectrum manager, NTIA must balance the spectrum interests of the Federal agencies while also advancing policies that promote the benefits of technological developments in the United States for all users of telecommunications services. As Federal spectrum manager, NTIA promotes policies to improve spectrum efficiency, to increase private sector access to scarce spectrum resources, and to plan for future Federal spectrum needs, including those critical national defense, public safety and law enforcement needs. 

Background on the National Spectrum Allocation Process

In 1934, the Communications Act was signed into law establishing the respective responsibilities for spectrum management in the United States. The statute reserved to the President the authority to make radio frequencies available to all stations belonging to or operated by the United States. NTIA exercises this authority on behalf of the President ensuring that federal agencies can meet their critical communications needs, both in peace time and during emergencies, in the areas of national defense and security, air safety, maintenance and preservation of our natural resources, law enforcement, management of national disasters, exploration of space, and other Federal government services and functions. The Communications Act of 1934 also created the FCC as an independent agency with the responsibility to manage the spectrum to meet the needs of the state and local governments and the private sector. 

To meet the respective needs of the private sector and federal government, the President, through NTIA and its predecessors, and the FCC over the past 68 years have divided approximately 300 GHz of usable radio spectrum into government exclusive, non-government exclusive and "shared" bands. Each of these approximately 900 bands have been allocated to one or more of 41 radiocommunication services such as broadcasting, mobile, fixed, and mobile satellite. 

The FCC makes domestic spectrum allocation decisions through public rulemakings. NTIA coordinates its allocation decisions in government-exclusive bands through the Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC), which is comprised of representatives from the major spectrum users among the Federal agencies. The FCC and NTIA coordinate on any spectrum allocation decisions involving "shared" bands. We work together every day to coordinate spectrum decisions that affect our constituencies and to ensure that the current and future needs of both the government and private sector for access to the spectrum are satisfied.

An Overview of Spectrum Use in the United States

Over the years, spectrum use has expanded from the very low frequency ranges to the higher frequency ranges. Over 93 percent of all FCC licensees and Federal government frequency authorizations are in the 0 to 3 gigahertz (GHz) range. Of the spectrum below 3 GHz, 14 percent of the spectrum is Federal government exclusive, 31 percent is non-Federal government exclusive, and the remaining 55 percent is shared between the Federal government and private sector uses. Throughout the usable spectrum, NTIA has authorized the use of some 445,845 assignments for Federal government use, the protection of spectrum used by Canada and Mexico, and other frequencies specified by the FCC. NTIA processes approximately 300 to 500 Federal agency requests for frequency assignment actions daily. 

The entire spectrum management process has to be flexible, dynamic, adaptable to changing requirements, and timely to meet the national needs for spectrum. The spectrum below 3 GHz is extremely congested. Thus, finding spectrum below 3 GHz for the deployment of new technologies, such as third generation wireless or ultrawideband services, has been a complex and challenging process.

As a result of the requirements of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 and the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, NTIA has identified over 240 MHz of spectrum used either exclusively by the Federal government or shared with the private sector for reallocation to private sector uses. In 1998, Congress enacted a law that requires the private sector beneficiaries of this spectrum to reimburse Federal agencies for the costs of relocating from certain of the identified frequency bands. NTIA is now in the process of finalizing these reimbursement rules. The President's Budget for Fiscal Year 2003 contained a legislative proposal to streamline this reimbursement process by creating a fund from spectrum auction proceeds to reimburse the affected Federal agencies. The Department of Commerce expects to transmit this proposal to Congress later this spring.

Overview of NTIA Support for National Defense, Law Enforcement, and Public Safety

Spectrum availability has a profound affect on national defense and Federal law enforcement and public safety agencies with respect to their ability to support their mission of homeland defense, border security, criminal investigation, counter-terrorism activities, and the general safety of the American people. To meet these needs, NTIA assigns spectrum to Federal agencies on a continuous basis. This frequency assignment system enables Federal agencies to meet their radiocommunication needs under any conditions from peacetime to national emergencies. 

In special cases, such as the September 11 terrorists attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, NTIA responded with a 24 hour-a-day, 7 days-a-week special frequency operation to process special requests by Federal agencies for search and rescue and associated operations at the site of these attacks, related law enforcement activities, and spectrum requirements for DOD special operations. NTIA processed emergency requests from DOD, the Departments of Justice, Treasury and Energy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the White House Communications Agency, and the American Red Cross. To meet DOD's special spectrum needs, NTIA expedited coordination of more than 6,700 such assignments through the use of a special computer automation process. 

Of the total Federal frequency assignments, NTIA has authorized approximately 40 percent for DOD's use. The largest number of these DOD assignments, approximately 56 percent, support DOD's land, sea, and air mobile operations. Other DOD uses include fixed microwave operations (14 percent); space operations (9 percent); radiolocation and radionavigation (5 percent); experimental operations (3 percent); and combinations of the above operations (13 percent). DOD like many Federal agencies has adopted more spectrum efficient technologies in recent years, and thus, has significantly reduced its frequency assignments. In the past five years, DOD has decreased its spectrum use by 16 percent.

NTIA also works with the Federal agencies to ensure that spectrum is available to meet the future radiocommunication needs of the U.S. Government. NTIA has a spectrum certification program that enables agencies to present proposed systems for review and evaluation to see if spectrum will be available for operation of these systems in the future and to ensure that the systems meet the rules, regulations and standards that are required to prevent interference. In 2001, NTIA certified spectrum availability for 138 systems of which 57 percent were DOD systems with an approximate value of $10.1 billion. The new systems included radars, terrestrial trunking communications systems, enhanced airborne warning control system, and weapon control systems. NTIA also works closely with and has agreements with DOD's Joint Spectrum Center. We have mutually developed computer automated spectrum management tools that have been adopted by most Federal agencies to make applications for frequency assignments. Use of these tools ensures that the requests meets the NTIA rules and regulations governing spectrum use and that interference to and from others is prevented.

Accommodation of New Technologies - - Third Generation Wireless and Ultrawideband

NTIA is currently working with FCC, DOD and other Federal agencies to accommodate two new technologies that will provide new radio services to the public and the Federal government. Accommodating these technologies poses unique and difficult challenges for the spectrum management community.

Third Generation Wireless 

Over the past decade, there has been a tremendous growth worldwide in the use of cellular-based wireless telecommunications systems. The Department of Commerce and NTIA believe that this global growth will continue. The "third generation" (or "3G") systems advanced by industry propose to provide mobile and satellite-based broadband capabilities. While current cellular and PCS wireless systems are expected to evolve to 3G technology over time, there is a strong desire from the wireless industry for additional spectrum now to establish 3G networks.

In recognition of this growth and the trend toward global markets for wireless services, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has considered the spectrum requirements for evolving 3G systems, which is internationally termed International Mobile Telecommunications-2000, or IMT-2000. At the May 2000 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-2000) in Istanbul, Turkey, an ITU-established agenda item called for the review of spectrum and regulatory issues for advanced mobile applications in the context of IMT-2000. The ITU acknowledged the need to provide additional spectrum, particularly for the terrestrial component of IMT-2000 applications. The ITU forecasts that 160 MHz of additional spectrum would be required for 3G systems. This amount is over and above that spectrum already allocated internationally for 1- and 2G systems. The ITU identified several frequency bands that could be used for IMT-2000 systems. However, member administrations of the ITU retained the right to implement any of the bands in any time frame, for any service or technology, and could use any portion of the identified bands that they deemed appropriate to satisfy national requirements.

Since 2000, NTIA, the FCC, and the Federal agencies have been working cooperatively to take certain actions to identify spectrum for 3G services. After extensive public outreach and work with industry and affected agencies on technical analyses of the various band options, NTIA and the Federal agencies are now focusing specifically on the 1710-1770 MHz band, while the FCC is focusing on the 2110-2170 MHz band. Viability assessments on both bands will be released later this spring.


Recent advances in microcircuits and other technologies have resulted in the development of pulsed radar and communications systems with very narrow pulse widths and very wide bandwidths. These "ultrawideband" or "UWB" devices are capable of accurately locating nearby objects, seeing through objects, and communicating using multiple paths. While most of them operate at very low power levels, they operate across multiple bands of frequencies allocated to numerous other conventional radio communications technologies, including safety-of-life and other critical governmental systems.

In May of 2000, the Federal Communications Commission issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend its rules to accommodate UWB devices in the radio spectrum without causing harmful interference to governmental operations (including critical air traffic control, weather warning systems, and national defense systems) or commercial communications systems (including TV and radio broadcasting, domestic and international commercial satellites, cellular telephones). NTIA conducted extensive measurements and analysis, including tests and analysis of UWB effects on a number of governmental systems and the global positioning satellite (GPS) system. NTIA worked closely with the affected Federal agencies, including DOD, and the FCC to ensure that the FCC's rules will protect critical Government uses of the spectrum. NTIA is now in the process of coordinating the final rules, which the FCC adopted on February 14th of this year.


In summary, NTIA works closely with the Federal spectrum management community to balance the spectrum needs of the Government agencies with those of the private sector. I thank you for this opportunity to share with you the views of the NTIA on this critical issue, and I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.