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US senators issued satellite phones for emergency communication: Report

Artist's rendering of Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite. (DoD image by the Space and Missile Systems Center courtesy of the 50th Space Wing.)
May 22, 2023

At least 50 U.S. senators have been issued satellite phones to use during emergency situations, according to people familiar with the situation, CBS News reported.

The phones were distributed as part of a number of new security efforts from the Senate Sergeant at Arms and were offered to every senator. It is unclear which senators agreed to the take part in the new measure.

Last month, Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson told the Senate Appropriations Committee that satellite communication will “ensure a redundant and secure means of communication during a disruptive event,” adding that the phones will support security measures during an emergency that “takes out communications” in the United States.

An advisory from the Department of Homeland Security said satellite phones are used to “coordinate response and recovery efforts in remote areas, where there are no landline or cellular telephone networks, or in areas where existing networks are damaged or overloaded during a natural disaster (e.g., severe weather or earthquake) or a man-made incident, including potential chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive events.”

“Satellite mobile phones can help maintain command and control functions during an emergency when existing communications networks are not functioning. These phones are designed to be relatively rugged and simple to operate, but are more expensive than cell phones to buy and use,” it added.

While security is a top priority for lawmakers and officials alike, potentially life-threatening incidents still occur. An intruder recently entered the home of White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, the U.S. Secret Service said. Agents stationed at Sullivan’s house were reportedly unaware of the intrusion until after the individual left the scene.

Citing three government officials, The Washington Post reported an unknown individual entered Sullivan’s home around 3 a.m. ET in late April. Sullivan reportedly confronted the unknown man and told him to leave.

Sullivan has a constant Secret Service detail, but agents working at Sullivan’s house at the time were unaware of the intruder until after the person left, the sources added.

This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.