LightSquared Scandal: Solyndra, Plus Harm to the US Military’s Technological Advantages?
September 16, 2011 - 7:55 am
Did the White House pressure a prominent Air Force four-star general to change his testimony about a wireless project that could cripple the Pentagon’s Global Positioning Satellite system, but enjoys ties to President Obama? General William Shelton says yes.
This charge, revealed Thursday by the U.S. House Armed Services Committee comes on the heels of the Solyndra solar scandal, in which the White House pressured the U.S. Department of Energy to provide a half billion dollar grant to a financially questionable solar energy company that ended in bankruptcy.
Like his promotion of solar and other green technologies, the president and his administration have vigorously pushed to extend broadband coverage, especially wireless broadband, to more than 200 million Americans.
The latest potential scandal relates to a satellite broadband company in Virginia called LightSquared. LightSquared’s majority owner is Philip Falcone, a billionaire investor who made his wealth shorting subprime debt. He is worth $2.2 billion and has been close to the administration, including President Obama.
General William Shelton, the head of the U.S. Space Command, was prepared to tell Congress that LightSquared’s system could compromise military GPS operations. Gen. Shelton and his staff believed the project would interfere with the military’s sensitive Global Positioning Satellite capabilities, which control missile targeting.
But the Office of Management and Budget pressured General Shelton to go easy on LightSquared despite its potentially harmful impact on the military.
The Virginia-based satellite and broadband communications company has plans to build a nationwide, next-generation, 4G phone network that many, including Shelton, think would seriously hinder the effectiveness of high-precision GPS receiver systems, a product used most commonly by the United States military.
A source familiar with the technology told Fox News that the LightSquared spectrum would be 5 billion times stronger than the military’s GPS system, rendering the military’s system almost useless.
“Imagine trying to have a telephone conversation while your neighbors are hosting a rock concert,” the source told Fox News. “That’s the situation the military is facing.”
Shelton, in testimony Thursday before a House Armed Services subcommittee, refused to suggest that interference problems could be mitigated, as he allegedly was being pressured to say.
Military training that relies on precision GPS, such as dropping ordnance, potentially could cease to exist in the United States. Many farmers who also rely on the systems would also be affected. It’s estimated this system is used by as many as 1 million people.
I have much more on LightSquared here.