Inhofe, Reed and Thornberry Urge President Trump to Prevent FCC from Approving Ligado Bandwidth Request That Could Harm GPS, Cost Taxpayers Billions

U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, today sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to intervene to prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from granting the license modification request of Ligado Networks, which wants to use a part of the communications spectrum that will interfere with Global Positioning System (GPS) reception.

“Ligado’s planned usage will likely harm military capabilities, particularly for the U.S. Space Force, and have major impact on the national economy,” write Inhofe, Reed, and Thornberry. “Further, this plan would cost taxpayers billions of dollars to replace current GPS equipment, which could be rendered useless, and would force American families and businesses to use foreign space-based navigation and timing systems to replace the functions of GPS. This is fundamentally a bad deal for America’s national and economic security, and the timing could not be worse.”

The letter also highlights objections to this specific plan from across the administration, including from the Departments of Defense, Commerce, Interior, Justice, Homeland Security, Energy, and Transportation, as well as NASA, National Science Foundation, U.S. Coast Guard, and FAA.

“In particular, we urge you to carefully consider the Department of Defense’s conclusion that Ligado’s plan would detrimentally interfere with GPS,” the letter continues. “Many of the chips that receive the GPS signals are embedded in thousands of weapons systems, which will have to be taken apart at great cost and replaced, potentially altering our day-to-day readiness. Addressing these known problems adequately would interfere with vital operations and cost billions of taxpayer dollars to replace equipment."

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear President Trump:

We write to urge you to protect the integrity of the Space Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites that underpin the vitality and strength of our economy, critical infrastructure, and national security. Your intervention is necessary to prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from granting the license modification request of Ligado Networks, which wants to use a part of the communications spectrum that will interfere with GPS reception, particularly for high precision civil users. Ligado’s planned usage will likely harm military capabilities, particularly for the U.S. Space Force, and have major impact on the national economy. Further, this plan would cost taxpayers billions of dollars to replace current GPS equipment, which could be rendered useless, and would force American families and businesses to use foreign space-based navigation and timing systems to replace the functions of GPS. This is fundamentally a bad deal for America’s national and economic security, and the timing could not be worse.

Ligado plans to use a specific portion of the spectrum immediately adjacent to GPS to begin building a 5G communications network. While we share the desire to make America a leader in 5G networks, Ligado’s proposal is not essential to winning the 5G competition with China. The bands of spectrum Ligado seeks are not the prime bands that the Department of Defense is working hard to share with industry, and there is grave concern across your administration about the harmful impact of this specific plan from the Departments of Defense, Commerce, Interior, Justice, Homeland Security, Energy, and Transportation, as well as NASA, National Science Foundation, U.S. Coast Guard, and FAA. These objections are based on strong evidence from years of testing and analysis that shows that the Space Force’s gold-standard service to the American people will suffer terribly if this proposal is approved.

As you know, the U.S. military operates a set of GPS satellites that not only provide precision timing and navigation to our warfighters, but also enable much of daily American life.  These GPS satellites quietly power our economy by providing free precise timing and navigation to our financial and banking sector, agriculture, our logistics and tourism companies, our power grid and cell phone businesses, commercial aviation, space launch and space operations, weather, construction and mining vehicle guidance, as well as surveying and mapping. A conservative estimate is that these satellites contribute $1 billion to the economy every single day, and they are necessary for trillions of dollars in financial transactions in the stock markets. The functions provided by our GPS satellites will be all the more important to enable a rapid economic recovery from the effects of COVID-19. Ligado’s plan would hinder GPS functions for the entire American economy.

In particular, we urge you to carefully consider the Department of Defense’s conclusion that Ligado’s plan would detrimentally interfere with GPS. Many of the chips that receive the GPS signals are embedded in thousands of weapons systems, which will have to be taken apart at great cost and replaced, potentially altering our day-to-day readiness. Addressing these known problems adequately would interfere with vital GPS operations and cost billions of taxpayer dollars to replace equipment. Senior uniformed and civilian military leadership have repeatedly expressed their strong opposition in memos on behalf of the entire user community to the FCC. We urge you to discuss this issue personally with Secretary Esper and Chairman Milley to hear firsthand their warfighting concerns before a decision that negatively impacts national security is made.

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