5G Provisions in the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act

Published: February 01, 2023

Federal Market AnalysisDEFENSEInformation TechnologyNational Defense Authorization ActNetwork ServicesPolicy and LegislationWireless

Fifth-Generation networking technologies are coming to a military installation near you.

Continuing our series on the contents of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023, today’s post focuses on two provisions dealing with fifth-generation (5G) wireless networking Technology. Previous posts on cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and inflation topics covered in the FY 2023 NDAA may be found here.

Target Date for Deployment of 5G Wireless Broadband Infrastructure at all Military Installations

Brief and to the point, Section 221 states that no later than July 30, 2023, the Secretary of Defense shall establish a target date by which the Department of Defense (DOD) “plans to deploy 5G wireless broadband infrastructure at all military installations and establish metrics, which shall be identical for each of the military departments, to measure progress toward reaching the target.”

Coming on the heels of the Enterprise IT-as-a-Service (EITaaS) prototype efforts that have been taking place across multiple DOD facilities, this provision ensures that the department informs Congress (and industry) when it intends to fully roll out fifth-generation (5G) networking technologies across its various installations. Several parts of the DOD, including the U.S. Army, have already published installations strategies outlining their plans for the use of 5G and Internet-of-Things (IoT) capabilities. The publication of a deployment strategy for the entire DOD should clarify where efforts will be focused in the coming years. The demand that DOD publish a deployment strategy confirms that the department feels it has adequately tested 5G technology for effectiveness and that it is confident 5G networks can be secured and defended.

Plans to Accelerate the Transition to 5G Information and Communications Technology within the Military Departments

Congress reinforced the 5G planning requirement in Section 221 by adding Section 234. This provision directs the DOD to develop a plan that specifies:

  • The extent to which the military departments expect to deploy 5G infrastructure within roughly the next three years.
  • How 5G implementation is to be achieved.
  • An operational needs assessment that identifies the highest priority areas for 5G implementation.
  • An explanation of the extent to which the DOD will use an open radio access network for 5G, including funding estimates.
  • The identification of a single point of contact responsible for 5G implementation at each military installation and within each armed force.

Where DOD’s 5G Investment is Going

Taken together, Sections 221 and 234 set the stage for a rapid increase in investment in 5G by the DOD. An analysis of the DOD’s requested Procurement and Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) budgets for FY 2023 show that the department anticipates spending $634M on 5G. This funding breaks down as follows by military department and defense organization (figures have been rounded):

  • Office of the Secretary of Defense - $363M
  • DISA - $140M
  • DARPA - $53M
  • Air Force - $40M
  • Army - $26M
  • Navy - $8.0M
  • DLA - $4.0M

Summing up, it becomes clear from the budget numbers that 5G investment has a long way to go before it reaches levels sufficient for implementing the technology at all DOD installations. In the meantime, the facilities that fall under the OSD, many of which are R&D related, and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) will receive the most budget dollars. The Air Force will also continue its 5G investment leadership among the military departments, followed by the U.S. Army.