Matsui, above, and then-Rep. Cliff Stearns offered a bill last year directing the government to auction off the 1755-1780 MHz band, but it didn’t become law. However, Congress has already authorized the sale of the spectrum as needed, so no law is needed.
The Pentagon estimates the cost of vacating the entire 1755-1850 MHz band at roughly $12 billion. A Defense Department spokesman acknowledged that testing is under way with the major wireless carriers to examine the feasibility of sharing the spectrum while preserving certain vital government programs such as drones and air combat training systems.
“The department cannot provide details or speculate on the outcome of this effort,” the spokesman said. “However, it is important to note that this is a very good example of the cooperation that is occurring between the DOD and the commercial wireless industry.”
“We must carefully examine the benefits of both clearing and sharing spectrum over the long term,” Matsui said. “We must work to find a timely solution that addresses both our economic needs and our national security challenges.”
Republicans have expressed a broad preference for auctioning spectrum rather than sharing it among carriers, and they are particularly sensitive to concerns regarding critical defense systems. Should agencies drag their feet on vacating some or all of the 1755-1850 MHz block, GOP lawmakers will likely be quick to criticize the administration.
“Sharing sounds great, and there are various sharing technologies, but operating WiFi devices [in the same band] is very different than air combat training sharing spectrum with 4G broadband,” another Senate aide said. “That’s never been done before and probably shouldn’t be the first-choice option to pursue.”
Leaders from military and veterans service organizations joined Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Kelly Ayotte , R-N.H., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at a press conference to urge the Senate to replace a provision in the budget proposal that cuts retirement benefits for veterans. Wicker, Ayotee, and Graham earlier called for a bipartisan solution to replace the $6.3 billion in cuts to military retiree benefits.
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.