Department of Defense (DoD) Chief Information Officer John Sherman said his office is taking over as the lead on the Pentagon’s 5G-related activities, effective Oct. 1.

During his keynote address at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit on Sept. 7, Sherman explained that as part of the shift of leadership, his office plans to expand some of the Pentagon’s existing 5G pilot programs. He also plans to investigate additional DoD 5G installations, including an open radio access network (ORAN).

“There are numerous pilots underway at various U.S. military installations. We’re going to continue to build on that momentum,” Sherman said. “ORAN is a priority for us … it’s a priority for the administration to move past the closed stack to open stack technologies.”

Sherman explained that he wants to further expand the pilots with an eye toward the ORAN, which would allow components from different companies or suppliers to run seamlessly together. ORAN can link mobile, enterprise devices, and applications to the network over radio waves.

According to Sherman, his office also plans to deploy tactical 5G, which will be crucial to some DoD efforts, including the department’s recently announced Replicator initiative. That project is setting into motion DoD’s plan to create thousands of autonomous systems in the next two years.

“Tactical 5G will be critical for that. And so that’s a challenge we put to industry and to ourselves, to make sure we’re able to make that work on the battlefield as well,” Sherman said. He added that his office has already been working with several private sector organizations to expand 5G efforts as the DoD moves to an “open-network, open-software” environment.

But with an “open-network, open-software” environment, cybersecurity becomes increasingly critical, especially for the DoD, Sherman said.

The shift in 5G oversight follows recent defense policy legislation from Congress that directed the DoD CIO to take the lead in the Pentagon’s 5G efforts.

Congress has also directed the Secretary of Defense to set a date to roll out 5G wireless broadband infrastructure to all military installations.

In addition, the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act requires the DoD to map out an integration plan for deploying 5G across military departments.

The DoD Office of the CIO previously worked with the Undersecretary of Defense (USD) for Research and Engineering’s (R&E) office – who thus far has overseen DoD’s 5G network portfolio – on some of these 5G efforts.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.