The electromagnetic spectrum is a critical enabler of the Department of the Navy's ability to communicate and operate in a global environment. Now more than ever before, deployed Sailors and Marines depend on the electromagnetic spectrum because it enables nearly all Navy and Marine Corps capabilities, including strategic command and control; tactical communications (airborne and ground); intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and radar, navigation and weapons systems.
Spectrum is also important to world commerce because it enables a vast array of wireless capabilities, including e-mail, mobile telephone, and other capabilities that are now essential to modern-day business and life. While spectrum is a finite natural resource, it is readily available in most rural areas of the world.
However, spectrum is congested in major metropolitan areas which include many coastal regions of the world. As a result, spectrum can be challenging to acquire in some geographical areas of the world and easily acquired for use in others.
The ability of Navy and Marine Corps forces to support diverse missions is critically dependent on the availability of spectrum. This availability is determined by a number of varying factors, including a host nation's allocation and control of spectrum within its borders, congestion, and operational requirements of spectrum-dependent equipment and systems.
Due to diverse and unique governance within many sovereign nations, spectrum-dependent systems and equipment procured for U.S. military use should be planned and designed for multiband operation or provide significant tuning flexibility to maximize global use.
Spectrum supportability is an assessment of whether the electromagnetic spectrum necessary to support the operation of spectrum-dependent equipment or systems will be available when required. While assessing the spectrum supportability for equipment does not constitute the right to operate the equipment, it can identify whether equipment can be supported with spectrum.
Spectrum supportability is composed of a number of processes. Obtaining permission to operate spectrum-dependent equipment may involve a lengthy, multi-step process that should be started as early as possible. It begins with a Spectrum Supportability Assessment (SSA) and includes considerable coordination and scrutiny. The box above contains guidance for ensuring spectrum supportability.
Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 4650.01, "Policy and Procedures for Management and Use of the Electromagnetic Spectrum," requires all DoD components to conduct spectrum supportability risk assessments as early as possible in the procurement of spectrum-dependent systems or equipment.
The purpose of the risk assessment is "to affect design and procurement decisions" because the early identification of regulatory, technical and operational spectrum supportability risks minimizes the possibility that the spectrum-dependent equipment cannot be employed to support Navy and Marine Corps requirements. Identified risks should be reviewed during acquisition milestones for programs of record and throughout a system's life cycle.
Within the DON, the responsibility for conducting a Spectrum Supportability Assessment resides with the organization procuring or acquiring the spectrum-dependent system or equipment. The composition and level of complexity for conducting a SSA is dependent upon a number of factors including the type of spectrum-dependent equipment and the intended operational area.
While it is necessary to assess the supportability of all spectrum equipment intended for procurement, some equipment requires only completion of the SSA. This would generally include equipment that complies with the "non-licensed" requirements identified in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) "Manual of Regulations and Procedure