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Author of the 5G Memo Departs National Security Council

Brig. Gen. Robert Spalding returns to Air Force duty

Following a week of debate (and denial, and then more debate) related to a leaked White House memo proposing a nationalized 5G wireless network, the document’s author has departed the White House, Axios reports. Previous to these events, Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Spalding was with the National Security Council. After both his memo and proposal were leaked and obtained by Axios, he has returned to his Air Force post, according to the Washington Post.

According to the Post, a “senior administration official said there was considerable upheaval inside the White House … after the 5G memo story broke. Although it is unclear whether Spalding leaked the memo, because he had shared it so widely, some officials judged him responsible.”

The controversial documents argued that to protect against Chinese surveillance, America requires a centralized nationwide 5G network, and outlined an option under which the government would pay for and build a single network — essentially a federal takeover of part of the U.S. mobile communications system.

Responses from members of the telecom industry ranged from diplomatic to dismissive, but were unambiguous in their opposition: Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC, emphasized that “any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future.” CTIA president Meredith Attwell Baker said that the “government should pursue the free market policies that enabled the U.S. wireless industry to win the race to 4G.” FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly curtly added, “I’ve seen lead balloons before tried in D.C., but this is like a balloon made out of a Ford Pinto.”

Following the memo’s release, members of the Trump administration emphasized that the “document as published is dated,” Recode reports. “They also stressed it had merely been floated by a staff member, not a reflection of some imminent, major policy announcement — and probably might never be.”