Federal Strategies Set to Boost 5G Implementation

Published: July 22, 2020

Federal Market AnalysisUSAFDEFENSEMobilityPolicy and LegislationSTATEVA

Recently issued federal policies are helping to expand and secure fifth-generation wireless technology.

Key Takeaways:

  • Fifth-generation technologies bring the promise of increased network bandwidth and low-latency capabilities, helping advance several emerging technology fields. Nonetheless, 5G wireless comes with significant cyber and supply chain risks that agencies must overcome.
  • The White House and DOD recently issued strategies to accelerate the deployment of the U.S. 5G market while addressing security concerns brought on by the technology.
  • The 5G federal marketplace continues to expand at a rapid pace, particularly in the Defense sector, to help bolster national security and military capabilities and outshine foreign competitors.

With the potential to transform critical federal operations and missions, Fifth Generation (5G) technologies is gaining the attention of U.S. government leaders in recently issued strategies to expand deployment of the wireless capability.

Built as a larger, more complex infrastructure requiring more radio spectrum, 5G technology provides additional network speed and flexibility, with low-latency and high-bandwidth capabilities. The promise of 5G will lead to advancements in areas such as autonomous vehicles, smart buildings and telehealth.

Nonetheless, 5G technologies comes with its challenges. To enable the growth of 5G, the federal government will need to ensure the availability of radio spectrum in the commercial sector while sustaining the needs of existing users. Moreover, and more importantly, cyber and supply chain risks exist in the implementation of 5G technology. The larger number of network components in 5G increases the risk of ensuring the hardening and authentication of all endpoints. From a supply chain perspective, the U.S. must safeguard 5G equipment manufacturing by its adversaries.

Congress, the White House and the DOD recognize both the importance and risk in 5G technologies to advance U.S. critical missions. The COVID-19 pandemic and the need for rapid, effective response to the virus has only highlighted the necessity for 5G technologies.

Accordingly, government leaders have taken action in the past several months to pass two key strategies to shape the U.S. approach to 5G development, implementation and security:

National Strategy to Secure 5G

DOD 5G Strategy

In response to the mandate set forth in the Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2020, the White House issued the National Strategy to Secure 5G strategy in March 2020 to develop, deploy and manage 5G. The strategy outlines four lines of effort:

  1. Facilitate the domestic rollout of 5G – make more spectrum available for commercial use, streamline government process for improving 5G infrastructure
  2. Assess risks and determine core security principles – maintain an understanding of the global 5G market and develop security principles for U.S. 5G
  3. Address risks to U.S. national and economic security - assess and manage supply chain risks
  4. Promote responsible deployment of 5G - participate in international development of 5G security principles, preserve U.S. leadership in 5G, incentivize market competitiveness to promote 5G market diversity

In response to Section 254 of the FY 2020 NDAA, DOD issued a 5G strategy in May 2020 striving for 5G-enhanced DoD mission capabilities while maintaining resiliency in the technology’s risks. The DOD strategy also promotes four lines of effort:

  1. Endorse tech development – host 5G demonstrations and leverage new technologies allowing greater spectrum access
  2. Assess, mitigate and operate through 5G vulnerabilities - DoD will develop and validate a zero-trust model for 5G
  3. Influence standards and policies - DoD will develop new concepts of operation, participate in standards-setting bodies, and help develop new policies for sharing spectrum
  4. Engage partners – specifically international partners, industry and congressional leaders


5G Expansion into the Federal Marketplace:

The Defense sector is emerging as the nation’s leader in 5G adoption and innovation. In addition to maintaining leadership in the wireless sector over China, the desire to boost cloud computing, AI, augment reality and the Internet of Things is driving DOD and its military components to develop 5G prototypes for enhanced network bandwidth.

For example, DOD created a new 5G office in August 2019 for rapid acquisition of commercial 5G technologies. Moreover, Defense is deploying 5G capabilities in “sets” to its bases, identifying 12 bases as 5G testbeds as of June 2020, with plans for more testbeds later in the year.

At the Air Force, 10 bases in the southeast region are hosting several 5G experiments, with plans for 20 additional bases in the northwest. Experiments with 5G include spectrum sharing with commercial entities, and developing mobile capabilities for Air Operations Centers to allow people to work on applications in various locations, according to an article by Federal News Network.

Though Defense is taking the lead in 5G exploration, some Civilian agencies are also piloting the technology. In March, VA announced the first 5G-enabled hospital at its Palo Alto Health Care System, with outfitted infrastructure to support and scale 5G capabilities. In June, State issued an RFI seeking an end-to-end “clean path” to 5G networks at home and abroad, free from potential dependencies of untrusted foreign vendors.