Questions that urgently need answers - GPS World

Questions that urgently need answers

February 15, 2024  - By
Image: enot-poloskun / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Image: enot-poloskun / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

The Department of Defense (DOD) shoulders an enormous responsibility, perhaps one whose significance the world does not fully grasp: the sheer number of military, civil and commercial users, each with hundreds of unique use cases, that depend on the Global Positioning System (GPS).

No other DOD-operated system serves such a diverse array of users and interests. From Special Operators to ship and tank drivers, pilots and operators, the military user base is expansive. Civil users include first responders, general aviators, and those supporting the international flying public, whose numbers are again setting records. Additionally, countless average people like you and me just “use it” in our daily lives without considering how it works. The ever-expanding commercial market consists of $1.7 trillion in 2023 dollars in economic benefits accruing to the U.S. economy alone, millions of jobs, and fierce global competition to produce the “best of the best” of the 6.5 billion user receivers in operation today.

With these users and interests in mind, what does that mean for GPS’ future? It raises more questions than answers — about policy, governance, program execution and threats that urgently need to be addressed:

  • What indicators will determine whether the United States has met its policy goal to be the global leader in “service provision and the responsible use of global satellite navigation systems, including GPS and foreign systems?”
  • Building on this publication’s previous articles, what constitutes a “Gold Standard” in 2024? Which users determine this definition? How and when do foreign global navigation satellite systems’ capabilities factor into this definition?
  • What funding levels ensure the security, accuracy, availability and resilience of GPS? In Fiscal Year 2022, Congress provided more than $2 billion for DOD to procure and conduct research and development on GPS III and IIIF satellites, procure military user equipment, and upgrade the ground architecture. In 2022, the Department of Transportation received $22 million for GPS resiliency and $92 million for the Wide Area Augmentation System. Is this level of funding sufficient to bring innovative technologies to GPS?
  • Speaking of innovation, U.S. law directs DOD to “sustain and operate” GPS for military and civilian purposes. How can innovative GPS technologies contribute to “sustain and operate” missions?
  • Who should participate in decisions regarding the timing of GPS upgrades and satellite launches?
  • Where does the most accurate data on cyber and other threats to GPS satellites, ground stations, military and civil user equipment, and commercial receivers reside? Who evaluates that data to determine the overall risks to GPS? Should those risks be shared with all users? How quickly will the most severe risks be mitigated?
  • Do the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of State have sufficient resources to detect and prosecute illegal and irresponsible spoofing and jamming incidents in the United States and overseas?
  • What is the earliest date the much-anticipated L1C, L2C, and L5 signals can be operational?

The GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA) believes the U.S. government does not have to shoulder such difficult and urgent questions alone. GPSIA looks forward to sharing insights while working with government agencies and the wider user community to answer these questions and put in place executable plans to address these challenges.

About the Author: Lisa Dyer

Lisa Dyer is the executive director of the GPS Innovation Alliance.