Pentagon to share electromagnetic spectrum

Pentagon officials are forging a long-term plan to secure military access to enough of the electromagnetic spectrum to accomplish its missions amid growing federal and commercial use. 

“Department of Defense air, land, maritime, space and cyberspace operations are fundamentally and increasingly dependent on electromagnetic spectrum,” Teri Takai, the Pentagon’s chief information officer, said at a Pentagon briefing Thursday. 

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For example, when military pilots train within the U.S., they need a certain amount of electromagnetic spectrum, and if it is not available, training will have to be curtailed, Takai said. 

“We are very heavily spectrum dependent in order to be able to do that training. If in fact we are in an environment where we have interference in the spectrum that we use, we either have to limit the amount of training or, in fact, we can have instances where we'll have interference during the time that that training's taking place,” she said. 

At the same time, the Pentagon is seeking to share the spectrum with federal and business entities while making sure its weapon systems are flexible in the frequencies available to it.

That will require modifying some older systems, said Maj. Gen. Robert Wheeler, the Pentagon’s deputy chief information officer for command, control, communications, computers and information infrastructure. 

For example, Wheeler said, the military had 167 unmanned aerial vehicles in 2002 and 7,500 by 2010. Many of those require larger bandwidth and will have to be modified. 

“It's important that we have a strategy that is thinking long term,” said Takai. 

“We cannot shift in a short time frame, we just have too much equipment and too much capability that really has to be transitioned in a very thoughtful way so as not to impose a major burden on budgets and a major burden on the taxpayers,” she said.