Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Michael Turner today asked the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to account for how much taxpayer money the federal government spent to test LightSquared’s wireless network for interference with government telecommunications devices.

Grassley and Turner are concerned that the federal government spent millions of dollars on testing, and that the government might never recover the expenditure because LightSquared and its parent company, Harbinger Capital Partners, are in deep financial trouble, according to media reports. 

“The federal government spent millions of taxpayer dollars on testing for a project that moved along only because the government gave approvals before resolving interference questions,” Grassley said.  “Now, taxpayers are on the hook for the testing that showed that the project interfered with government devices using global positioning systems.  The executive branch needs to account for just how much taxpayer money it spent and why.”

Turner said, “In the process of testing a system, which ultimately would have interfered with our military’s GPS receivers, taxpayers may have footed the bill to the tune of millions.  The Administration owes Americans an explanation as to how much money was spent, and if those dollars will be recovered.”

Grassley and Turner made their request to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, located within the Department of Commerce.  The agency is described as “the Executive Branch agency that is principally responsible by law for advising the President on telecommunications and information policy issues.” 

In February, the Federal Communications Commission withdrew its preliminary approval of a valuable regulatory waiver it granted to LightSquared.  The company was attempting to build a satellite phone network in a band of spectrum adjacent to global positioning systems (GPS) spectrum.  However, testing showed LightSquared’s network caused significant interference with critical GPS users such as the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

NOTE: The text of the Grassley-Turner letter is available here.