Who runs GPS? - GPS World

Who runs GPS?

February 16, 2023  - By

Who Runs GPS

Nearly 50 years ago, in December 1973, the Defense Systems Acquisition Review Council approved the Navstar Global Positioning System for entry into Phase I of development. Since then, through its development, deployment and continuing modernization, GPS has grown into a complex program. It is operated by the Department of Defense based on legislation from Congress, executive orders from the White House, and policies established jointly with the Department of Transportation. It supports U.S. military missions as well as myriad scientific, commercial and consumer applications around the planet. Of course, the last category, with its billions of users, now dwarfs all the other ones combined.

The GPS program, with an annual budget of nearly $2 billion and no user fees, is a gift from U.S. taxpayers to the world. It has staff in Washington, D.C.; at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia; at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado; at the Space Systems Command at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California; at Cape Canaveral, Florida; at the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center in Alexandria, Virginia; and at GPS ground antennas in additional locations around the world. From the White House to Congress to aerospace companies, from military officers to civilian civil servants, from policy makers to engineers, from the East Coast to the West Coast to remote islands in the Pacific, Indian  and Atlantic Oceans, GPS is a vast enterprise — most of which is little known even to people in the industry and virtually unknown to the public.

The Global Positioning System is a vast and mostly unknown enterprise. This section — the first in an occasional series of authoritative reference pieces in this magazine — aims to clarify who does what to maintain GPS as a fantastic global utility. The relevant missions of agencies or units are in italics.

After I researched and drafted the piece, I asked the experts listed below to review it and provide corrections and additions. While grateful for their substantial feedback, I take sole responsibility for any remaining errors or omissions.

Thank you to the following experts:

  • Harold W. Martin III, Director, Space-Based Positioning, Navigation & Timing, National Coordination Office
  • Michael J. Dunn, Capability Area Integrator for PNT, Space Systems Command, United States Space Force
  • Lt. Col. Robert O. Wray, Commander, 2nd Space Operations Squadron, United States Space Force
  • Scott R. Calhoun, Commanding Officer, Navigation Center, United States Coast Guard
  • Paul Benshoof, Technical Director, 746th Test Squadron (AFMC), Central Inertial and GPS Test Facility
  • Bernard Gruber, Senior Director, Northrop Grumman

Please return to this page periodically to read corrections and updates to this special section. If you spot any significant inaccuracies or omissions, please bring them to my attention by writing to me at mluccio@northcoastmedia.net.

About the Author: Matteo Luccio

Matteo Luccio, GPS World’s Editor-in-Chief, possesses more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for GNSS and geospatial technology magazines. He began his career in the industry in 2000, serving as managing editor of GPS World and Galileo’s World, then as editor of Earth Observation Magazine and GIS Monitor. His technical articles have been published in more than 20 professional magazines, including Professional Surveyor Magazine, Apogeo Spatial and xyHt. Luccio holds a master’s degree in political science from MIT. He can be reached at mluccio@northcoastmedia.net or 541-543-0525.