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On Point: Q&A With Amanda Toman

Q&A with Amanda Toman, acting principal director, 5G to Future Generation Initiative, U.S. Defense Department.

Amanda Toman is the acting principal director, 5G to Future Generation Initiative, U.S. Defense Department. She has more than 11 years of experience with the department.

How would you describe the Defense Department’s overall priorities and goals with 5G?

We’re focused on demonstrating capabilities to show to the department the value that 5G can provide. We’re doing that with four main objectives: one, to promote technology development. A lot of what you hear on the news is not necessarily cutting-edge 5G capability, so we’re trying to employ those unique testbeds around the country.
Two, looking at vulnerabilities. What are security threats or vulnerabilities? How can we understand what those are and how can we mitigate those?

Also, looking to the future, understanding that 5G is not going to be the end. There will be a 5G+ or 6G, or whatever it is, but starting to look in a more forward-leaning posture so that we are queued up early on and investing early on so that we are ready to spiral once those technologies come online.

All of this is underlined by working with the innovators, working with the industry partners, to then take these innovations to standards bodies to really drive and influence how those standards are implemented.

Really, the last one is engaging with our international partners and allies. How can we share information with our international partners and allies? How can we work together to influence and drive standards that align with our own and our allies’ visions for telecommunications?

You mentioned standards bodies. What can you add?

The main standards body that I’m referencing is 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project). That is made up of international vendors. Vendors from all over the world participate, and they come and present and democratically vote on how standards get implemented.

The United States does have good membership and bringing standards and items to those bodies, but our adversaries understand the process as well and how to influence by putting more bodies on those standards panels.

A big part of the initiative is working with the industrial base here in the U.S., both big vendors and nontraditional vendors, and trying to have them take their innovations to the standards bodies, providing results that they can present and implement.

We are always thinking about what we can recommend and push up for the next round of release of the standards.

What is the focus of the department’s $250 million 5G budget request?

We are focusing on driving that technology development, continuing to experiment and standup the testbeds across the country, all those prototype and experimentation efforts. We’re working with a variety of vendors to characterize threats that 5G can potentially open and then develop mitigation capabilities to avoid those threats.

What are some early lessons learned?

An area—I think this is kind of obvious—was just navigating the spectrum and turning on radiating equipment at different bases across the country. We are leveraging commercial solutions, but nonetheless, it’s not an easy feat to implement all of this hardware and turn it on.

The solutions we’re implementing are 3PGG compliant, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a plug-n-play. It’s a little bit trickier than that. It’s been interesting working with industry partners to see how that integration happens.

So, we are going to be able to hopefully speed up some of the tranche two sites by sharing some of the best practices that we’ve already picked up at tranche one.

Does the 5G Cross-Functional Team have set deadlines for delivering policies or transition plans?

[Laughing.] No. I’m not going to nail myself to deadlines.