WASHINGTON — The Defense Department in a statement April 17 called on the Federal Communications Commission to reverse its decision to allow Ligado Networks access to electromagnetic spectrum adjacent to the spectrum used by the Global Positioning System.

The FCC on April 16 announced it intends to grant a license modification to Ligado Networks to use a portion of the L-band spectrum for 5G and internet-of-things services. The FCC said the company’s proposed network design ensures that “adjacent band operations, including the Global Positioning System, are protected from harmful interference.”

Long before the FCC ruling, the Pentagon had strongly pushed back on Ligado’s proposed network. But the FCC made it clear that it does not see eye to eye with DoD or other agencies on this issue. “Although I appreciate the concerns that have been raised by certain Executive Branch agencies, it is the Commission’s duty to make an independent determination based on sound engineering,” the FCC said.

DoD late Friday evening released a joint statement with the Department of Transportation disapproving of the FCC’s decision:

“Americans rely on our Global Positioning System (GPS) each day for many things: to locate citizens in need of emergency assistance through our E-911 system, to secure our financial system, to order and receive shipments, to travel by car for work and leisure, to facilitate commercial trucking and construction work, and even to make a simple cellphone call. Our Departments rely on GPS each day for all those reasons as well to coordinate tactical national security operations, launch spacecraft, track threats, and facilitate travel by air and sea. The proposed Ligado decision by the Federal Communications Commission will put all these uses of GPS at risk.”

DoD’s statement came hours after House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released a letter he sent to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai raising concerns about Ligado’s 5G network.

“While the United States must be a leader in the implementation of 5G networks, our creation of these networks must not hamper our military’s operational capacity in any way,” said Smith. “China’s aggressive, global promotion of its 5G companies presents a considerable security challenge that must be addressed. However, Ligado’s proposal, which seeks a portion of spectrum adjacent to that used for Global Positioning Systems, poses an even larger security risk.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...