U.S. Congress Finalizes Defense Authorization

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WASHINGTON — Congress sent U.S. President Barack Obama a defense authorization bill Dec. 15 that tightens oversight of the Pentagon’s primary satellite launching program and limits the discretion of U.S. satellite telecom regulators to license systems that might interfere with GPS signals.

A provision included in the final conference version of the Defense Authorization Act for 2012 directs the Air Force to spell out its compliance with a U.S. Government Accountability Office report that called the service’s rocket acquisition strategy into question. To the extent that the Air Force does not intend to comply, it must specify its rationale in its 2013 budget request, to be submitted to Congress in February.

A related provision would  subject the so-called Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program to stricter reporting requirements by changing its designation from a sustainment to an acquisition program.

The legislation also stipulates that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) cannot approve any commercial broadband system until the U.S. Defense Department is satisfied that the system does not interfere with GPS satellite navigation services. That provision appears to be aimed at LightSquared, which received conditional FCC approval to move ahead with its satellite terrestrial broadband network despite GPS interference concerns.