Disruptive by Design: Have You Seen the Flurry of Acts on 5G Security?

April 1, 2020
By Jennifer Miller

The Secure 5G and Beyond Act, the Promoting United States Wireless Leadership Act and the Prague Proposals have topped the headlines in recent months. All three are focused on security.

First, the Secure 5G and Beyond Act is bipartisan, which gives reason to believe it will move more easily through the remaining bill passage process. In some ways this bill is a great demonstration of the “tone from the top,” as it would lead to the president of the United States consulting with the Federal Communications Commission, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Department of Homeland Security, national intelligence director and defense secretary to develop a comprehensive national strategy for securing wireless telecom. In theory, this would ensure marketplace competition and consumer privacy while inherently supporting 5G security for our allies. I imagine the National Security Strategy document could change as a direct result of this act. It is a good time for a new hashtag: #SaveMyCellularService.

Next, the Promoting United States Wireless Leadership Act is also a bipartisan bill, which aims to protect our country’s national security and global competitiveness by promoting U.S. leadership in international wireless standards-setting bodies. This way, the United States will have greater involvement and international visibility to influence and set standards. In my opinion, the requirement to craft a plan and inform the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation would also serve to synchronize the nation’s strategy. After all, the National Security Strategy influences the National Defense Strategy and the National Military Strategy.

Finally, there are the Prague Proposals. These are House resolutions rather than bills but could result in legislation. Of the recent activities, the Prague Proposals are the most sweeping, involving representatives from 32 countries, the European Union and NATO. The proposals originated with the 2019 Prague 5G Security Conference.

The resulting cybersecurity framework is a set of recommendations for nations to consider as they design, construct and administer 5G telecom infrastructure. Many countries are studying how to build out their future 5G infrastructure, including hardware such as new towers, antennas and servers. Increasingly, they are recognizing the importance of ensuring these systems are secure, according to an article published by Share America, a U.S. State Department platform for communicating foreign policy.

“5G will have a transformational impact. It will affect our militaries, our industries, our critical infrastructure (from ports to electric grids), our entrepreneurs and much more,” Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, says in the article. “5G security issues need to be addressed upfront. Making the right choices when deployment is beginning is much easier than trying to correct mistakes once network construction and operation is well underway.”

Similar to the Secure 5G and Beyond Act, these proposals involve the president and federal organizations, but with more of a foreign policy flare in efforts to support trade policies in addition to international security policies. Call me crazy, but it seems that international origins with this scope of involvement should result in faster implementation.

These acts, along with the congressional resolution, certainly reflect the attention to safe, secure and exciting new mobile networks, but action—both proactive and reactive—is needed to successfully combat our enemies.

Jennifer Miller is an operations research analyst for the Air Force’s Cost Analysis Agency. She previously supported the National Guard Bureau Headquarters’ Joint Staff, and the Air Force and Army at locations along the East Coast. She is a certified government financial manager, and a certified defense financial manager with acquisition specialty and a member of the American Society of Military Comptroller’s Washington Chapter.

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