GAO: NTIA Needs To Improve Spectrum Efficiency Oversight


The National Telecommunications & Information Administration "cannot ensure that spectrum is being used efficiently by federal agencies."

That was one of the conclusions of a just-released Government Accountability Office study of NTIA's spectrum management.

Identifying that spectrum has become increasingly important as the FCC and NTIA try to figure out where and from whom to free up spectrum for wireless broadband.

The report found that NTIA's most recent initiative, which was part of that combined FCC/NTIA search for spectrum, agencies whose spectrum was being evaluated "encountered difficulties providing NTIA with the necessary data and analyses."

"NTIA's data management system is antiquated and lacks internal controls to ensure the accuracy of agency-reported data, making it unclear if decisions about federal spectrum use are based on reliable data," the report said.

GAO recommended that NTIA update its strategic plan and establish better controls to ensure accuracy. NTIA has agreed to review that strategic plan, and would work on the issues of accuracy and completeness of studies to the degree it could afford to, but said, for budget reasons, it would need to continue to rely on self-reporting by government agencies. "[B]ecause of budget and resource limitations, NTIA as a historical matter does not police Federal agency spectrum use or Federal agency reporting," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a written response to a draft of the report.

"I welcome GAO's report examining the federal government's use of spectrum today," said Rep. Anna Eshoo, ranking House Communications Subcommittee member, in a statement. "To reach the president's goal of freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband, all options should be on the table, including the repurposing of spectrum currently used by federal agencies. This report helps us understand the complexities involved with how this spectrum is being used and how it may be utilized in the future to support national security, defense and emergency communications."

"We appreciate the analysis and recommendations in the GAO report, which illuminate the challenges involved in coordinating spectrum use by the scores of Federal agencies that depend on it to execute their core missions," said NTIA in a statement after release of the report. "We are working with other federal agencies to examine ways of better ensuring the accuracy of spectrum data submitted to us. We are also reviewing our strategic planning processes in light of the National Wireless Initiative the President announced earlier this year as well as last year's Presidential Memorandum on spectrum which we are in the process of implementing."