Moving the Nation's Spectrum Usage Forward

May 24, 2017
By Julianne Simpson
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Managing spectrum, much like other national resources such as water, natural gas and land, is a growing issue due to the number of users. Now more than ever, with growing cybersecurity threats, it's important to outline a national approach to spectrum utilization for both the U.S. economy and the federal government.

“Spectrum is an essential engine for economic strength driving U.S. leadership domestically and worldwide,” said Maj. Gen. Robert E. Wheeler, USAF (Ret.), during his afternoon keynote address at the AFCEA/George Mason University Critical Issues in C4I Symposium. “It also provides our armed forces the ability to dominate the battlefield in the event of conflict.”

U.S. leadership and economic strength is, in part, driven by the ability to move information rapidly and effectively throughout the world. Spectrum is the medium to move the information. “Those that can dominate spectrum will be able to move commodities across the world and defend their country," he said. Those who own the information know where the bad guys are.”

“The next fight will be network to network not platform to platform,” Gen. Wheeler stressed. “The ability to move ones and zeros across the world is a leadership issue.”

Gen. Wheeler believes commercially valuable spectrum is ripening for auction and could greatly benefit the Defense Department. The greatest opportunity from the funding would be upgrading the cybersecurity of DOD legacy networks. “Disruptive technology is growing. We need to fix these legacy technologies quickly,” he said.

“Networks provide the background for all [radio frequency] communications but they weren’t designed for command and control. There is going to have to be a revolutionary change as opposed to an evolutionary change that is happening right now,” he said. 

Spectrum is a critical enabler for the economy and DOD and is incredibly valuable. With demand for it growing fast and billions of new Internet users coming online, the U.S. must lead the world in spectrum management, the general concluded.

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