Air Force General Leaves NSC After Leak of 5G Telecom Memo

Brigadier General Robert Spalding. (US Air Force photo)
Brigadier General Robert Spalding. (US Air Force photo)

An Air Force general has left the National Security Council and returned to his branch of service, following the leak of a memo that advocated a government takeover in developing the nation's 5G mobile telecom network, according to a report.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Spalding was the author of the memo, which became the focus of a story by news organization Axios that irked the telecom industry and irritated the White House, the Washington Post reported Saturday.

Spalding's last day with the NSC was Jan. 31, the Post reported, citing information from a senior Trump administration official. The report said Spalding was not implicated in the leak, but officials decided his backing of the potential government takeover of the 5G network exceeded his NSC role.

The general was told he would be leaving the NSC before his memo and PowerPoint proposal were leaked, the report said. In recent weeks, senior officials became concerned that Spalding had pushed too hard for the takeover idea, the report added.

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Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that some White House officials viewed next-generation 5G wireless service as a "key area of competition," and saw a potential threat from China as justification for a "moonshot" government effort behind the network's development.

But after the Axios story appeared, Federal Communications Comission chairman Ajit Pai told the New York Times that he opposed the idea of a government-built 5G network, and industry group USTelecom said government involvement would likely slow the technology's development.

There were no plans to replace Spalding at NSC, the Post reported. Spalding declined the newspaper's request for comment.

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