Leaders of several Senate committees with national security jurisdiction are urging Robert O’Brien, President Trump’s national security advisor, to appoint a single Federal policy coordinator for telecommunications policy with a particular focus on 5G wireless technologies.

In a Nov. 18 letter, the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Intelligence, Foreign Relations, Armed Services, and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees expressed concern about China’s leadership position in the “marketplace” for 5G technologies, and the “strategic risk” that creates for the U.S.

The senators acknowledged efforts being made by Federal agencies and departments on the 5G policy front, but said they are “concerned that their respective approaches are not informed by a coherent national strategy.”

“In our view, the current national level approach to 5G is comprised of a dispersed coalition of common concern, rather than a coordinated, interagency activity,” the senators said.

“Without a national strategy, facilitated by a common understanding of the geopolitical and technical impact of 5G and future telecommunications advancements, we expect each agency will continue to operate within its own mandate, rather than identifying national authority and policy deficiencies that do not neatly fall into a single department or agency. This fractured approach will not be sufficient to rise to the challenge the country faces,” they said.

The senator asked O’Brien to make Federal 5G policy a “top priority,” and urged him “to designate a dedicated, senior individual focused solely on coordinating and lead the nation’s effort to develop and deploy future telecommunications technologies.”

“We believe that having a senior leader would position the United States to lead on telecommunications advancements, ensure the United States is appropriately postured against this strategic threat, and demonstrate to our allies the seriousness with which the nation considers the issue,” the senators said.

Regarding U.S. 5G strategy, the senators said, “We cannot rely exclusively on defensive measures to solve or mitigate the issue, but rather we must shape the future of advanced telecommunications technology by supporting domestic innovation through meaningful investments, leveraging existing areas of U.S. strength, and bringing together like-minded allies and private sector expertise through a sustained effort over the course of decades, not months. A challenge of this magnitude requires a more ambitious response than traditional agency processes can support.”

Signing the letter were: Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Mark Warner, D-Va., chair and ranking member of the Intelligence Committee; Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., chair and ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee; Sens. James Risch, R-Idaho, and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., chair and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee; and Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., chair and ranking member of the Armed Services Committee.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.