To understand Spectrum Supportability Risk Assessments, we need a little background. In the DoD acquisition process, spectrum management usually begins with equipment spectrum certification, a process whereby a system is approved to operate in a particular spectral band. To actually operate the system, spectrum certification must be followed by obtaining specifically assigned frequencies. Obtaining frequencies to operate equipment in the U.S. is a two-step process which is managed by the submittal of a properly filled out DD Form 1494. The first step is Equipment Spectrum Certification. The certification process assesses equipment transmit and receive characteristics to determine if it complies with existing RF spectrum regulations. The second step, Frequency Assignment, coordinates operational use of specific frequencies within specific bands among current users so that they do not interfere with each other. The Manual of Regulations and Procedures for Radio Frequency Management, issued by the Department of Commerce’s NTIA, is the standard for both steps. The NTIA is the regulatory authority over all federal equipment and spectrum in the US&P. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates non-federal spectrum in the US&P.
The DD Form 1494, a document that captures an exhaustive variety of technical data, serves two functions:
(1) Provides a uniform method to capture the basic spectrum-dependent and operational parameters of military spectrum-dependent systems in a format that can be easily provided to US National and host nation spectrum authorities
(2) Standardizes the format of the technical data required to be inserted into DoD and national databases to generate frequency assignment approvals enabling initial EMC analyses, and checks for compliance to military, US national, and host nation spectrum standards. System developers will complete and obtain approval for a DD Form 1494 during each phase of the acquisition process for each newly developed spectrum-dependent system.
In addition to the Frequency Allocation and Frequency Assignment processes, DoDI 4650.01 now requires the conduct of a Spectrum Supportability Risk Assessment for the procurement of all spectrum dependent systems, including COTS. SSRAs will be required of programs at milestone reviews A, B and C as part of the overall balance of program success against future risks. A PM’s failure to obtain spectrum supportability for components in its systems has direct consequences to the program in meeting performance, schedule and cost objectives established by its Acquisition Review Board and to the Combatant Commander in meeting Joint Mission Area requirements.
It’s important to remember that the SSRA is about assessing risk. The Risk Management Guide (RMG) for DOD Acquisition defines Risk as a measure of the potential inability to achieve overall program objectives within defined cost, schedule, and performance/technical constraints and has two components: (1) the probability/likelihood of failing to achieve a particular outcome, and (2) the consequences/impacts of failing to achieve that outcome.
We’ll get into the specifics of the SSRA starting with the next post….