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313.13 - Radiocommunications

This chapter describes USGS policies and procedures for obtaining radio frequency assignments, for acquiring radiocommunications facilities, and for reporting on frequency usage.


OPR: Office of Information Services

1. Purpose. This chapter describes USGS policies and procedures for obtaining radio frequency assignments, for acquiring radiocommunications facilities, and for reporting on frequency usage.

2. Authority. The Communications Act of 1934, as amended, provides for the regulation of interstate and foreign commerce in communications by wire or radio. This Act is printed in Title 47 of the United States Code, beginning with Section 151.

The functions relating to assigning frequencies to radio stations belonging to and operated by the United States, or to classes thereof, conferred upon the President by the provisions of Section 305(a) of the Communications Act of 1934, were transferred to the Secretary of Commerce by Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1977 and Executive Order 12046 of March 27, 1978. Department of the Interior use of and requirements for radio spectrum are identified, authorized and protected through Departmental representation on the Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC). This representation provides the forum for the Department to: (1) protect against harmful interference that could result in loss of life or property, (2) identify and plan for spectrum to serve future requirements, and (3) obtain frequency assurance to support a requirement prior to the expenditure of funds.

3. Policy. Radiocommunications services will be developed and provided to support USGS missions and activities to ensure efficient, dependable, and economical utilization of the radiocommunications resource. Radiocommunications networks and related systems will be provided and operated in strict compliance with regulations, standards, and policies established by international and national laws, as well as those of the Department and the U.S. Geological Survey.

A. The establishment and operation of USGS radiocommunications systems and facilities will be in accordance with the provisions of the radio frequency assignment(s) issued to the U.S. Geological Survey, and the standards and instructions contained in paragraph 12 of this chapter.

B. Radiocommunications equipment will be purchased, installed, and maintained to provide cost- effective communication conforming with appropriate USGS requirements and specifications. End users/ordering activities are responsible for obtaining any required approval, including radio frequency assignment(s) prior to initiating procurement of any transmitting device capable of operation in any portion of the radio spectrum.

4. Background. Radiocommunications are accomplished through the radio frequency spectrum. The radio spectrum is generally considered to be that portion of the electromagnetic wave spectrum extending from about 30 hertz (Hz) to about 3000 gigahertz (GHz). The lower limit is completely arbitrary; the upper limit approximates the lower limit of the infrared portion of the spectrum.

There are two principal paths by which radio waves travel from a transmitter to a receiver: one is by groundwave, which travels near the ground from the transmitter to the receiver, the other is by skywave, which travels up to the ionosphere (37-600 miles above the earth) and is bent downward, or refracted, back to the earth. Long distance high frequency (hf) radio transmission is achieved by the use of skywaves. Short distance transmission is by means of groundwave. Groundwave propagation is affected by the electrical characteristics of the earth and by the amount of diffraction, or bending, of the wave around the curvature of the earth. These characteristics vary in different localities, but they are relatively constant with respect to time and the season. Skywave propagation is variable, since the constantly changing state of the ionosphere has definite effect on the refraction of the waves. A knowledge of the composition and properties of the atmosphere aids in the solution of problems that arise in planning radio communication paths and in predicting the reliability of communications.

Radiocommunications are used to provide efficient and cost effective support of U.S. Geological Survey missions and activities. Radio frequency spectrum is a limited natural resource available for use nationally and internationally. Nationally, radio spectrum usage in the Federal sector is managed, planned, and regulated through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and in the private sector by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Internationally, radio frequency management is regulated through the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

5. Objectives. Consistent with the mission of the U.S. Geological Survey, employment of the radio spectrum is to make effective, efficient, and prudent use of the spectrum in the best interest of the Nation, with care to conserve it when and where other means of communication are not available or feasible. Specifically, in support of the USGS mission, a few primary objectives are:

A. To safeguard life and property;

B. To foster conservation of natural resources;

C. To promote scientific research, development, and exploration;

D. To stimulate the development of our natural resources, and support social and economic progress; and,

E. To improve the well being of humankind.

6. Responsibilities. Departmental Manual 377 DM 1.3 states that each bureau and office within the Department of the Interior using radio will designate a Radio Liaison Officer. Overall responsibility for Surveywide direction of radiocommunications management and operations is vested in the Chief, Office of Information Services, who will designate a USGS Radio Liaison Officer. The USGS Radio Liaison Officer is located at the National Center, MS 809, Reston, Virginia 20192. The USGS Radio Liaison Officer is responsible for:

A. Representing the USGS in all matters pertaining to radiocommunications and frequency management.

B. Maintaining current copies of the NTIA Manual; Departmental Manual Radiocommunications Handbook (377 DM); and this chapter in the U.S. Geological Survey Manual on Radiocommunications (Chapter 13).

C. Providing access to referenced regulations as applicable, e.g., ITU and FCC regulations.

D. Reviewing all frequency assignment requests prior to submission to the Department, as outlined in 377 DM 7.

E. Reporting and resolving radio interference or noncompliance with regulations.

F. Disseminating and managing Radio Frequency Authorizations (RFA) for the USGS.

G. Providing liaison with the Division of Telecommunications, Office of the Secretary (PIR), with other Federal agencies, State and local governments and with the private sector in matters relating to or impacting USGS radiocommunications.

H. Coordinating the Five Year Review Program with the Department and frequencies assigned to USGS, as outlined in 377 DM 6.

Each Division and/or Office head will designate a radio officer who will serve as liaison between the divisions or office and the Bureau Radio Liaison Officer. The duties of a division or office radio officer include the following:

- Ensures that the utilization of radio frequencies within the divisions conforms to established policy.

- Reviews requests for radio frequency assignments before submission to the USGS Radio Liaison Officer, National Center.

- Oversees radio systems owned by USGS within their divisions and evaluates the performance of systems maintained under contractual agreements with other Federal agencies or with the private sector.

- Assists USGS locations in planning, designing, implementing, maintaining and managing their radio communications services.

7. Confidentiality. Although all USGS radio frequency assignments or authorizations are unclassified, such information should be considered confidential to USGS and be released to cooperators only upon a determination of need to be known and when it best serves the interest of the Bureau.

8. New Requirements. New or additional requirements for radio frequency authorizations require planning well in advance, particularly those requirements needing coordination with Canada or Mexico or those that require the use of microwave frequencies for terrestrial radiocommunication systems operating above 420 MHz (a 1 to 2 year lead time should be allowed for a major system). A 4 to 6 months lead time should be provided for telemetry requests (hydrologic and seismic).

9. Replacement. The useful life of a radio system can not be defined without a few exceptions. Good maintenance and responsible use can add many years to the life of radio equipment. Five years of hard daily use in harsh, humid, or dusty environments may virtually destroy a portable or mobile radio, this same radio may perform without fail for 15 years when used infrequently or used inside an administrative vehicle, an office, or in other building applications. Good radio planning should include an assessment of equipment after approximately 7 to 12 years of operation with a review of required repair and maintenance during the past 5 years. If required maintenance has been frequent or excessive, replacement should be considered.

A. Replacement Guide. Radio equipment should be replaced when one or more of the following conditions exist:

(1) Damaged - If equipment is damaged beyond economical repair, i.e., when the estimated cost of repair exceeds the cost of replacement, then such equipment should be replaced.

(2) Reliability - Equipment will deteriorate with age and use. When the equipment is not providing the required dependable service, then replacement should be programmed.

(3) Obsolescence - When the radio equipment no longer conforms to minimal technical standards or stands up to system improvements, then replacement should be considered. In some cases modification may be all that is necessary. If, however, modification exceeds the cost for new equipment, then replacement should be programmed.

(4) Age - The average radiocommunications equipment replacement due to age is approximately:

Portables --- 7 years

Mobiles --- 7 years

Fixed Station ---10 years.

10. Radio Maintenance. All USGS radiocommunications equipment, whether Government-owned or leased, will be periodically inspected, tested, and calibrated. Appropriate maintenance records for each item of equipment will be maintained by the user. Equipment performance will be maintained to the level of published manufacturer's specifications provided at the time of purchase. The costs to install, repair, and maintain USGS radio equipment will be borne by the user activity.

11. Safety Precautions.

A. Care should be exercised when using a radio while driving. If you are on steep or curving roads or when you must give total attention to driving, it is best to stop at the roadside to carry on a radio transmission.

B. To prevent burns or related physical injury from radio frequency energy, do not operate the radio transmitter when anyone outside the vehicle is within 2 feet of the antenna.

C. Just as it is dangerous to fuel a vehicle with the motor running, do not operate the radio transmitter while fueling the vehicle. Do not carry containers of fuel in the trunk of the vehicle when the radio is mounted in the trunk.

D. Dynamite blasting caps may be caused to explode by operating a vehicular two-way radio transmitter within 500 feet of the blasting caps. Obey the "Turn Off Two-Way Radios" sign posted where dynamite is being used. When transporting blasting caps in your vehicle:

(1) Carry the blasting caps in a closed metal box with a soft lining.

(2) Do not use the transmitter whenever the blasting caps are being removed from the box.

E. Batteries should never be disposed of by burning. They may explode and possibly result in injury.

12. Requesting a Radio Frequency Assignment.

A. Requests for Frequency Assignment(s) (RFA) will be submitted through the Division Radio Officer to the Bureau Radio Liaison Officer, National Center, MS 809. One copy will remain on file at the National Center, the original will be submitted to the Department for editing, assignment of a log number, and forwarding to the NTIA for processing.

B. The Request for Frequency Assignment Form will be used when applying for a radio frequency assignment and for five year reviews. The form can be found on the NTIA home pages, along with a detailed explanation of entry identifiers at URL

USGS RFA identifiers, i.e., USGS bureau codes, are as follows for insertion in the BUR01 field on the RFA:

GG - Geologic Division

GT - National Mapping Division

GW - Water Resources Division

GB - Biological Resources Division

GZ - This will be changed to GG (was Alaskan Geology)

13. Final Approval.

A. After the PIR has reviewed the frequency request(s), the application is then submitted to the Frequency Assignment Subcommittee (FAS) of the IRAC for processing and approval.

B. After approval, the NTIA issues a computer-generated Radio Frequency Authorization to the Department of the Interior. The Department issues the RFA to the Bureau/Office Radio Liaison Officer. This is the official Department of the Interior Radio Frequency Authorization reflecting the assignment as it appears in the NTIA Government Master File (GMF).