WASHINGTON, DC - The expanded capacity of the Fifth Generation (5G) wireless communications network is critical to America’s economy and national security. 5G is the communications infrastructure that will help power our digital future and transform industries by supporting an innovative ecosystem of connected devices. And the country that dominates 5G infrastructure is likely to gain significant economic, commercial, and security advantages worldwide.
With so much at stake, U.S. Senator Jack Reed, the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee and a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, says it is disconcerting that the Trump Administration lacks a coherent 5G strategy.
Senator Reed, along with a bipartisan group of Senate leaders sent a letter to President Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, urging him to name a senior coordinator for the effort to deploy 5G, and taking the Trump Administration to task for its “fractured approach” that “will not be sufficient to rise to the challenge the country faces.”
The letter, which was also signed by the Chairman and Ranking Members from Senate Armed Services; Foreign Relations; Homeland Security; and Intelligence Committees, stated: “Without a national strategy, facilitated by a common understanding of the geopolitical and technical impact of 5G and future telecommunications advancements, we expect each agency will continue to operate within its own mandate, rather than identifying national authority and policy deficiencies that do not neatly fall into a single department or agency.”
The bipartisan letter continues: “We would further urge you to designate a dedicated, senior individual focused solely on coordinating and leading the nation’s effort to develop and deploy future telecommunications technologies.”
The letter notes that China is stepping up efforts related to 5G technology and “China’s leadership, combined with the United States’ increased reliance on high-speed, reliable telecommunications services to facilitate both commerce and defense, poses a strategic risk for the country.” However, to this point, the Trump Administration has not taken sufficient steps to address potential Chinese threats.
The Senators say that maintaining White House focus on 5G is especially important in light of last week’s decision to eliminate the emerging technologies directorate at the National Security Council.
In addition to Senator Reed, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jim Risch (R-ID), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Jim Inhofe (R-OK).
Text of the letter is below:
November 18, 2019
Mr. Robert O’ Brien
Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC, 20006
Dear Mr. O’Brien,
Several leaders within the Executive Branch recently briefed the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Senate Armed Services
Committee on the United States’ efforts to develop and deploy fifth generation (5G) telecommunications technologies.
As you may be aware, the United States and its allies are facing an unprecedented security challenge with the current marketplace of 5G technologies. While the United States has led in the development and deployment of previous telecommunications evolutions, 5G represents the first evolutionary step for which an authoritarian nation leads the marketplace for telecommunications solutions. China’s leadership, combined with the United States’ increased
reliance on high-speed, reliable telecommunications services to facilitate both commerce and defense, poses a strategic risk for the country. We cannot rely exclusively on defensive measures to solve or mitigate the issue, but rather we must shape the future of advanced telecommunications technology by supporting domestic innovation through meaningful investments, leveraging existing areas of U.S. strength, and bringing together like-minded allies
and private sector expertise through a sustained effort over the course of decades, not months. A challenge of this magnitude requires a more ambitious response than traditional agency processes can support.
While we appreciate the progress being made within and across departments and agencies, we are concerned that their respective approaches are not informed by a coherent national strategy. In our view, the current national level approach to 5G is comprised of a dispersed coalition of common concern, rather than a coordinated, interagency activity. Without a national strategy, facilitated by a common understanding of the geopolitical and technical impact of 5G and future telecommunications advancements, we expect each agency will continue to operate within its own mandate, rather than identifying national authority and policy deficiencies that do not neatly fall into a single department or agency. This fractured approach will not be sufficient to rise to the challenge the country faces.
We hope that you, as the new National Security Adviser, will make this issue a top priority. We would further urge you to designate a dedicated, senior individual focused solely on coordinating and leading the nation’s effort to develop and deploy future telecommunications technologies. We believe that having a senior leader would position the United States to lead on telecommunications advancements, ensure the United States is appropriately postured against this strategic threat, and demonstrate to our allies the seriousness with which the nation considers the issue.
We look forward to working with you as we consider additional authorities and resources necessary to address an issue of this importance. We hope that you and your designated lead on 5G issues will continue to engage in a serious and frank dialogue with Congress about what is required to address this challenge.