- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2020

The bipartisan leaders of the House Armed Services Committee are urging the Federal Communications Commission to rethink a recent decision to establish a 5G high-speed information network from Ligado, a Virginia-based satellite communications company, expressing “deep concern” with the approval.

The FCC last month unanimously approved Ligado’s application to set up the network, despite warnings from defense officials that it could impair other functions on the spectrum — in particular the vital Global Position System (GPS.)

Calls have been growing within the national security community, including Pentagon leadership, to reverse the decision, but Ligado has insisted it has implemented precautions to prevent interference from outside actors and will provide a six-month notice before the system is deployed.

Led by committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, Washington State Democrat, and ranking member Rep. Mac Thornberry, Texas Republican, nearly half of the members of the House’s top national security panel are adding to the calls in a new letter signed by 23 members of the committee Thursday, urging the FCC to “reconsider and impose additional mitigation steps to address concerns.”

The group, comprised of members on both sides of the aisle, say satellite communications providers and airlines have also raised “serious concerns” of the implementation of Ligado’s network.

The lawmakers asked the commissioners whether they have received classified briefings by the Defense Department on testing data, and requested a response from the FCC within a week.

FCC officials following their decision said they included “stringent conditions” while approving Ligado’s application to ensure there wouldn’t be any interference. The company is required to limit the power level of its bases stations and report their locations and technical operating parameters to local governments or any industry stakeholders before starting operations, officials said.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for research and engineering Michael Griffin warned in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that Russia and China “will be quick to take advantage of our mistake by offering replacement systems that are not vulnerable to Ligado’s interference” as the U.S. races to redesign and hundreds of millions of GPS receivers.

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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