Bipartisan Senators Call for National 5G Director

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Top senators from both parties are urging National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien to appoint a coordinator for the nation’s 5G strategy.  

“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 chairs and ranking members of the Intelligence, Homeland Security, Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees wrote in a letter on Tuesday.

They called this “fractured approach” insufficient, reported The Hill. “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 next-generation networks would allow for an increasing amount of internet-connected devices, many of which may not be secured against cyberattacks. That’s why the White House and security experts have identified the transition to 5G networks as a key threat.

Lawmakers also expressed concerns about Beijing’s leadership in telecom and potential dependence on technology owned by companies that are essentially required to report to the Chinese government. “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,” the Senators wrote.

Some agencies have taken efforts to address potential Chinese threats. The Department of Defense, the General Services Administration and NASA issued an interim rule in August banning federal agencies from purchasing equipment from five Chinese companies, citing national security concerns, Inside Towers has reported.

Signing the letter were: Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Richard Burr (R-NC), vice chairman and chairman, respectively, of the Intelligence Committee; Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Gary Peters (D-MI), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; Jim Risch (R-ID) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Foreign Relations Committee; and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Jack Reed (D-RI), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Armed Services Committee.

November 20, 2019

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