Democrats launch inquiry into Pentagon's moves on a national 5G network

Democrats launch inquiry into Pentagon's moves on a national 5G network
© Bonnie Cash

Two top Democrats launched an inquiry Friday into the Defense Department's potential steps toward a national 5G network, raising concerns about the Pentagon's recent engagement with the wireless telecommunications industry.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoylePennsylvania Republican becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress House passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden, Democrats dig into legislative specifics MORE (Pa.), the top Democrat on the panel's Communications and Technology Subcommittee, are seeking details about a request for information from the Pentagon that seeks input from wireless carriers.

The lawmakers said they are worried that the Defense Department is working to own and operate nationalized 5G and lease federal spectrum for commercial purposes.

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“We have heard reports that the suddenness of this request and the short turnaround timeframe have been prompted directly by senior White House Officials,” the Democrats said in a joint statement accompanying letters to both the Government Accountability Office and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

They added they have also heard reports that the White House informed the Pentagon to “proceed immediately” to what's known as a request for proposal, signaling movement beyond a request for information (RFI).

In their letters, the lawmakers cited wireless company Rivada, which retains Karl RoveKarl Christian RoveThiel backing Trump-supported challenger to Cheney: report Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge Trump rips Bush for backing Cheney MORE as a lobbyist.

“According to press accounts, several political operatives or lobbyists with close ties to President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds Ohio Democrat calls Vance an 'ass----' over Baldwin tweet Matt Taibbi says Trump's rhetoric caused public perception of US intelligence services to shift MORE or his staff — including Karl Rove, Peter Thiel, Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE and Brad ParscaleBrad ParscaleAides tried to get Trump to stop attacking McCain in hopes of clinching Arizona: report MORE — are pushing for the seismic shift in spectrum policy contemplated by the RFI. These reports also suggest these Republican operatives are working for the benefit of a specific company, Rivada, Inc., which has long championed a national network that Rivada would construct and operate using its sharing technology,” they said.

The letter from House Democrats comes after a letter to President Trump last week by a group of 19 Republican senators expressing concerns about the RFI, saying they felt it contradicted a free-market strategy. That letter did not mention Rivada, Rove or the other political operatives with close ties to Trump.