A (New?) National Strategy to Secure 5G

On March 24, 2020, a new National Strategy to Secure 5G (5G Strategy) was put out by the White House with little fanfare.  5G is top of mind across the government, and 5G Strategy reflects much of the ongoing work to address security, foreign suppliers, international standards work, cyber norms, and infrastructure deployment. As Wiley detailed in our recent 5G Regulatory Roadmap, expectations are mounting for 5G, and efforts are underway across government that touch almost every part of the economy.

The Administration’s 5G Strategy document does not break much new ground, gathering ongoing efforts across government and emphasizing the role of the private sector as a partner to government in securing the future of 5G.  We note a few highlights.

  • A core part of the 5G Strategy is the domestic rollout of 5G. This is not new but has been a centerpiece of federal 5G efforts at the FCC and elsewhere. The 5G Strategy cites the FCC’s 5G FAST Plan and expected National Spectrum Strategy. The Administration is eager to collaborate with the private sector, and the Strategy points to the National Economic Council as playing a central role to augment the work of federal agencies like the FCC.

  • The 5G Strategy calls for more partnership with private sector to (1) assess risks and (2) develop security principles for 5G infrastructure. The Strategy document does not explicitly refer to ongoing projects, but policymakers are certainly aware of work in FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council (CSRIC), along with standards groups like 3GPP.  Our recent podcast with CTIA-The Wireless Association dug into some of these efforts, though recent events have delayed some of the work by 3GPP.

  • The 5G Strategy continues the Administration’s emphasis on supply chain security and new government authorities. The Strategy cites Executive Order 13873 on securing the ICTS supply chain as establishing authority to prohibit certain transactions that pose an undue or unacceptable risk to U.S. national security. The Commerce Department is still implementing that new regime, on which we have been engaged. The strategy also leans on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and the Federal Acquisition Security Council (FASC), created by Congress, which it says will “identify or develop supply chain risk management standards, guidelines, and practices for executive agencies.”

  • The 5G Strategy encourages international engagement with allies, and enhanced participation by the government, with the private sector, in standards development. Additionally, the government plans to work with partners, including the private sector, to “adopt policies, standards, guidelines, and procurement strategies that reinforce 5G vendor diversity.”  This is one of the toughest policy areas to address, as the government grapples with how to support existing and new entrants and competitors to certain Chinese companies, without engaging in to much top-down economic planning.

Importantly, this document emerged contemporaneous with the President signing the Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2020 (S.893). That law requires the President to submit to Congress a 5G security strategy within 180 days and consult with federal agencies, including the FCC, Commerce Department, DHS, DOJ, ODNI, Energy, State, and DOD. Implementation of the strategy would fall to the White House and Commerce’s NTIA.  

Under the law, the strategy shall (1) ensure the security of 5G wireless communications systems and infrastructure within the United States; (2) assist mutual defense treaty allies, strategic partners, and other countries in maximizing the security of 5G systems and infrastructure; and (3) protect the competitiveness of U.S. companies, privacy of U.S. consumers, and integrity of standards-setting bodies.

While the White House strategy document aligns with these goals, it does not appear to meet all of the new obligations that Congress has attempted to require.  For example, the law calls for the administration to seek public comment on the development and implementation of the plan within 60 days of enactment. Notably, in an accompanying signing statement, President Trump emphasized his executive authority, and stated the law will be implemented in a way that does not “interfere” with the President’s exclusive constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations.

We are helping innovators and service providers across the globe deploy and expand 5G. Subscribe to our blog for updates, and tune into our 5G podcast series on WileyConnect.com, to listen to our experts, government officials, and industry leaders talk about 5G.

Recent Guests have included the chair of Team Telecom at the Department of Justice, John Godfrey, Senior VP for Public Policy at Samsung, Peter Fatelnig, the E.U. lead in the U.S. on digital economy, Jamie Susskind of the Consumer Technology Association, Tom Stroup, President of the Satellite Industry Association, and policy experts from CTIA-The Wireless Association.

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