In January, the Federal Communications Commission granted a license to a satellite broadband company in Virginia called LightSquared to build tens of thousands of ground stations for a wireless network. However, the Pentagon has since raised concerns that the proposed wireless service could interfere with the military’s GPS capabilities, which have not only replaced maps for millions of drivers, but also serve a crucial role in missile targeting and other defense-related tasks.
Gen. William Shelton, a four-star Air Force general who oversees U.S. Space Command was scheduled to give testimony on Aug. 3, in which he would air the military’s concerns before a House Committee. However, before he could appear to testify, his testimony was leaked to LightSquared.
And the White House asked the general to alter the testimony to add two points: that the general supported the White House policy to add more broadband for commercial use; and that the Pentagon would try to resolve the questions around LightSquared with testing in just 90 days. Shelton chafed at the intervention, which seemed to soften the Pentagon’s position and might be viewed as helping the company as it tries to get the project launched, the officials said.
Now an important note about LightSquared. The majority owner of the company is an investment fund headed up by Democratic donor Philip Falcone. Between Falcone, his wife, and LightSquared CEO Sanjiy Ahuja, more than $90,000 has been given to Democrats since they applied for the license.
Chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) will be leading a panel to explore issues between the Pentagon and LightSquared today, during which Gen. Shelton will deliver his belated testimony.
Turner confirmed that Shelton told his committee that LightSquared had obtained his earlier prepared testimony and that the general will be asked about the pressure from the White House at Thursday’s hearing. “We are going to ask Gen. Shelton that the testimony we are receiving is unaltered and unbiased,” he said. “We have to make certain our national security is protected without financial influence or interference.”
It appears that Solyndra was not an isolated incident, but only the tip of the iceberg.