Defense Spectrum Summit:
Another "No Show" for FCC
Another "No Show" for FCC
This week is the annual Defense Spectrum Summit in Crystal City, VA (next to National Airport). This meeting is usually held in Annapolis, but this year was closer to Washington. Did FCC show up? No. Even though OET Chief Julius Knapp was listed as a panel participant the first day. There was no explanation of the nonpresence of the FCC, but the most likely explanation is that the Chairman's Office micromanagers who control outside contacts of FCC staffers either didn't get around to approving it or for some odd reason even vetoed it.
It is widely known that under Chairman Martin this is unprecedented review of all outside speaking with approval centralized in his office. Many FCC staffers beg off on any speaking invitations because they don't want the aggravation of even trying to get it approved or don't want to be seen as a "trouble maker" by even asking. Thus the normal healthy dialog between FCC staff and the spectrum community is slowing to a trickle.
Now in this day of homeland security you might think that exchanging ideas and improving mutual understanding with DoD spectrum managers would be a good idea. Furthermore, the military is a major user of spectrum in the US and expanding commercial spectrum use will require an understanding of DoD issues to help search for "win-win" solutions in finding more effective ways to use spectrum.
I came to FCC in 1979 from the "military industrial complex" and it saddened me when I realized that DoD and FCC both usually look at spectrum allocations as a zero sum game - a spectrum band is either DoD's or FCC's. (There are other federal spectrum users, of course, but they don't figure much into DoD thinking.) In truth, civil spectrum use and military use are generally orthogonal in space and time. The greatest demand for more civil spectrum is in the top 30 or so markets. Except for San Diego, there is little military spectrum use in these markets and much of the spectrum lies fallows most of the time. (For example, see the Shared Spectrum Company's report on monitoring Chicago for 24 hours in 2005, especially p. 21.)
With traditional military and civil technologies there was no alternative but to dedicate this spectrum for 24/7 exclusive military use. But the pending upper 700 MHz auction includes a new type of public/private partnership for sharing spectrum subject to preemption. Now sharing has a bad reputation in DoD because of a bad history with simple technologies. Indeed, garage door open use of the UHF aircraft band is always a sore topic because interference-sensitive garage door openers resulted in congressional complaints even though they were less than secondary in allocation and ended up limiting spectrum use at some miltary bases.
But new technology is available and coming that will offer new options that are more likely to be win-win. FCC needs to be involved in this dialog and meet the hands on DoD people who come to DC for such meetings so they can understand what the real concerns are as they try to address them. It is sad to think that 8th floor micromanagement might be blocking this dialog.