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Pallone & Walden Request GAO Review of Federal Spectrum Management

Jan 24, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) today urging the government watchdog to conduct an updated review of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) federal spectrum management processes.  Pallone and Walden asked GAO to consider as part of its review how federal spectrum users interact with NTIA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), how the NTIA and FCC interact with each other, and the recent federal spectrum management process breakdowns.  

“Last year, it was clear that the federal spectrum management process broke down,” Pallone and Walden wrote to GAO.  “Rather than working through the NTIA as the central repository and manager of federal spectrum, we are concerned that many of the federal agencies with spectrum allocations may have circumvented this statutory process.”

The bipartisan Committee leaders pointed to the fact that by statute, the NTIA has the “responsibility to ensure that the views of the executive branch on telecommunications matters are effectively presented to the [FCC].”  Pallone and Walden have continually expressed their support for NTIA to represent relevant agencies at the FCC on telecommunications matters and for NTIA to properly coordinate and oversee the nation’s federal spectrum users.

Pallone and Walden wrote that the recent federal spectrum management process breakdowns played out in multiple arenas, including the debate leading up to the National Defense Authorization Act, the 2.5 gigahertz (GHz) FCC docket, the 24 GHz FCC auction, and elsewhere. 

“Inefficient management and chaotic processes ensued, which among other things, undermined the U.S. government’s efforts in international spectrum coordination proceedings,” Pallone and Walden continued in their letter.  “We request that GAO evaluate how the NTIA, the FCC, and federal spectrum users are coordinating to ensure the nation’s airwaves are used to their utmost potential.”

Pallone and Walden requested that GAO study the following matters and provide recommendations as appropriate:

  • How can the NTIA and the FCC improve their process for resolving frequency allocation disputes in shared or adjacent bands and ensure that spectrum is used or shared efficiently?
  • How can federal spectrum users more productively interact with the NTIA in furtherance of the NTIA’s overall federal spectrum coordination role? 
  • Where more than one federal agency uses a particular band of spectrum, how can the coordination and management process, led by NTIA, be updated and improved?
  • What additional resources does the NTIA need to best coordinate and manage federal spectrum allocated to the various federal agencies?
  • How can federal agencies be encouraged to coordinate with NTIA prior to filing comments with the FCC or another independent agency in matters related to telecommunications and information policy?
  • What lessons can be drawn from breakdowns in the most recent coordination process for the World Radiocommunication Process?  What could the key federal agencies, the NTIA, the FCC, and Department of State, do differently to prevent future breakdowns in this process?

To read the letter, click HERE.

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