House member and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (Minn.) has gotten into the LightSquared debate, posting an open letter to her colleagues Thursday saying the President was granting political favors to his old friend, Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski.
She cited what she said was testimony of General William Shelton, head of the Air Force's Space Command, at a closed hearing last week in the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces that "the White House pressured him to change his testimony regarding the jamming of the GPS signal" by LightSquared.
The FCC granted a conditional waiver to LightSquared to use its satellite spectrum for a terrestrial 4G wireless broadband network. The President has made boosting wireless broadband deployment a national priority.
The condition was that it not interfere with GPS service on an adjacent band, but tests showed that it did and the FCC has held up the service for more testing and until those issues are resolved.
Bachmann said the report of Shelton's testimony out of the closed hearing came from subcommittee chairman Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio). "Shelton testified that the Obama Administration had asked him to say the effects on the jamming of the GPS signals could be mitigated when they cannot," she said.
That is the same Rep. Michael Turner who last week slammed Genachowksi for sending office of engineering and technology chief Julius Knapp to the LightSquared hearing in his stead.
Bachmann said that if GPS were disrupted, "the United States aviation, military and rescue operations will be effectively dismantled."
The GPS industry, backed by various government agencies, has argued that interference remains a problem and the service should not be allowed to proceed as presently constituted, even as modified by LightSquared to mitigate the interference and lower its power levels and move further away from the GPS band -- at least at the outset.
"Sadly, I believe President Obama is willing to overlook the risks the LightSquared 4G network could pose to the American people and national security because he would rather grant political favors to two of his supporters involved in this situation," said Bachmann, which she identified as "FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, whose commission granted the waiver to LightSquared, bundled $500,000 for the Obama campaign. Philip Falcone, head of Harbinger Capital Partners, the top investor in LightSquared, is a major Democratic donor. Clearly, in his support for LightSquared, the President has put political posturing over national security."
An FCC spokesperson was not available at press time, but in a statement LightSquared responded that it has "NO [emphasis theirs] intention of disrupting GPS."
It also offered refutations of Bachman's letter point-by-point:
•LightSquared does not plan "to activate'' a network that will jam GPS. When testing revealed a problem with GPS, LightSquared moved to new spectrum and a new launch plan.
•The FCC waiver does not allow LightSquared to proceed; it blocks the company from moving forward until the GPS issue is solved.
•LightSquared does not know what was said in General William Shelton's classified briefing, and, if it did, would never try to make public what was said behind closed doors. However, some of General Shelton's comments that Representative Bachmann attribute to the closed door briefing were made in an open hearing with the press and public in attendance.
•Mr. Phil Falcone is a registered Republican and two-thirds of his political donations go to Republicans.
•Most of the decisions involving LightSquared were made during Republican administrations under Republican FCC chairmen.