Defense 5G Investment

Published: June 09, 2021

Federal Market AnalysisInformation TechnologyInternet of ThingsMobilityWireless

DOD moves to the next phase of experimentation with 5G technology and the Internet of Things.

Key Takeaways

  • DOD intends to expand the 5G pilots it already has underway.
  • The department has requested $375M for investment in 5G technology in FY 2022.
  • Contract opportunities will be competed through Government-Wide Acquisition Vehicles and via GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule.

Over the last two years the Department of Defense has been working on 5G pilots at a dozen Joint and  Military Department bases. According to the department’s Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Performance Plan, moving to 5G is a technology priority. To quote that document, 5G “will enable truly ubiquitous connectivity, providing human-to-human, machine-to-machine, and human-to-machine connectivity at scales not possible before. To ensure that the DoD can continue to effectively operate anywhere and anytime, the DoD must begin now to address the spectrum, standards and security challenges that 5G presents, while simultaneously partnering with the private sector to accelerate 5G innovation, so that the DoD can rapidly take full advantage of its capabilities.”

To that end, the DOD Chief Information Officer, Under Secretary of Defense (Research & Engineering) and Deputy CIO for Command, Control, & Communications (DCIO C3) have identified the following as departmental priorities:

  • Establish a relationship with 5G domestic and international standards bodies.
  • Advance spectrum modernization initiatives.
  • Hasten the DOD’s adoption of 5G technology by providing at-scale test facilities that enable rapid experimentation and dual-use application prototyping.

The amount of funding we’re talking about in this context is not small change. According to the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s FY 2022 budget request, the DOD wants to spend $375M in the coming year on its Next Generation Information Communications Technologies (ICT) 5G Program. This total represents a drop of $125M from similar funding enacted for FY 2021, but it is still a significant amount of money.

The requested funding for ICT is separated into three buckets:

  • Dual Use 5G Use Cases – $72M
  • Congested Spectrum – $284M
  • External Engagement – $19M

OSD intends to use this money to achieve the following objectives:

  • Deploy flexible 5G infrastructure at twelve or more U.S. military facilities to enable varied applications and networking prototypes.
  • Evaluate at least twenty different 5G applications at DOD facilities across the Services based on parallel commercial applications and technologies.
  • Demonstrate the capacity to “operate through” existing commercial 5G infrastructure throughout the globe, leveraging existing infrastructure to meet DOD mission needs and learning how to utilize untrusted 5G networks through automated security techniques.

Importantly for industry, OSD also outlined its intended acquisition approach. Promising “The program will be executed through established support agreements with DOD Service laboratories and through existing DoD and Government-Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs),” OSD also intends to use “General Services Administration contracts that are suitable and cost-effective for 5G technology prototyping and telecommunications network equipment procurement and integration.”

Wrapping up, industry partners working with 5G should keep their eyes open for opportunities appearing on GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) and GWAC vehicles such as Alliant 2. The availability of opportunities via standard procurement avenues is good news for those companies that do not participate in the industry consortia which help the DOD advertise and award Other Transaction Authority (OTA) contracts.