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Fact Sheet – Spectrum Efficient National Surveillance Radar (SENSR)

For Immediate Release

August 27, 2019
Contact: Paul Takemoto or Tammy Jones
Phone: 202-267-3883

Demand for space on the radio spectrum is increasing due to technological innovations such as 4G mobile services and the rapid expansion of wireless internet services.

A Presidential mandate calling on federal agencies to free portions of the spectrum led to the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2015. 

The Spectrum Pipeline Act stated the following:

  • Federal agencies must submit a plan to free 30 Mhz spectrum below 3.0Ghz for auction by 2024.
  • Auction proceeds will be provided to the federal agencies to cover relocation or spectrum-sharing costs.
  • Funding is available for feasibility studies to determine if spectrum frequencies could be vacated.
  • A technical panel consisting of representatives from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Commerce’s (DOC) National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will review technical plans for approval prior to any funds transfer.

Spectrum Efficient National Surveillance Radar (SENSR):
In response to the Spectrum Pipeline Act, four agencies – the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – formed a cross-agency team to study the feasibility of an initiative called SENSR. The SENSR cross-agency team submitted the SENSR Pipeline Plan to the technical panel, which approved and submitted it to Congress in January 2017 for a mandatory 60-day review. After this review, OMB provided funding to the cross-agency team for the SENSR feasibility study. In August, 2018 NOAA recommended the elimination of their high-resolution weather requirements from the SENSR program mission scope in order to decrease program complexity and manage risk. The technical panel approved this change; NOAA continues to serve in an advisory role in the SENSR program.

As a result of its approval of the SENSR Pipeline Plan, OMB provided approximately $71.5 million to the SENSR team. Those funds will be used for phase one of the program, which involves research, engineering studies, economic analysis and planning. 

With OMB approval and funding, the SENSR team is now assessing the feasibility of making a minimum of 30 MHz of the 1300 to 1350 MHz band available for reallocation for shared federal and non-federal use. A feasibility study will identify potential surveillance solutions and evaluate the capability to auction the spectrum by 2024.

The bandwidth would be vacated for auction by consolidating functions of certain existing surveillance radar, which would be replaced by a surveillance solution that would address the requirements of the agencies. The SENSR team would approve the surveillance solution.

Industry engagement is critical in working toward a collaborative resolution of program challenges, so the SENSR team has released multiple Requests for Information (RFIs) to receive industry input on the program’s overall approach, feasibility, requirements and acquisition strategy. The responses are helping the team refine the program strategy. For example, the team decided to move away from defining the traditional radar specifications to a performance-based requirements approach. This means the government will define the coverage needed and vendors will in turn propose a solution such as a system or a system of systems to meet coverage requirements.

Industry partnership is also vital to determining the program’s feasibility within the parameters of cost, technical boundaries and schedule requirements for a 2024 auction of available spectrum. A fourth industry event was held in August.



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