Transportation to lead civilian GPS management

Transportation to lead civilian GPS management

President Bush updated the nation's Global Positioning System policy, giving the Transportation Department authority equal to that of the Defense Department on the committee that manages GPS technology and spectrum.

Transportation has committed itself to helping strengthen GPS to ensure noninterference from competitors and to enhance the technology's civilian uses.

The White House directive, issued earlier this month, updates a 1996 directive from former President Clinton. The White House Office of Science and Technology released details this week.

The revisions update military and homeland security roles for GPS and designate it as a component of the U.S. critical infrastructure. The change in governance and resourcing reflects the fact that there are now more civilian uses for GPS than military.

'DOD created it, owns and operates it, but GPS has become an enabling technology in the civilian sector and definitely that is what will go on in transportation in the future,' said Jeffrey Shane, DOT undersecretary for policy, in a teleconference with reporters yesterday.

Transportation is the lead agency for promoting capabilities in the civilian sector and for ensuring that GPS services meet or exceed any future systems. The European Union is developing its own Galileo satellite system.

'We take the challenge of Galileo seriously. We intend to retain leadership,' Shane said. However, the United States and European Union are conducting talks exploring interoperability between the two systems, he said.

Within Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration is the biggest user and enhancer of GPS. 'It is critical to the aviation industry,' said FAA administrator Marion Blakey.

FAA has invested $950 million so far in the Wide Area Augmentation System, a GPS-based navigation and landing system that will allow precision instrument approaches at thousands of runways with little or no ground-based capability. WAAS, which is designed to improve the accuracy, integrity and availability of information coming from GPS satellites, will be available in limited versions throughout most of the country in 2008.

DOD provided funding for GPS improvements under the previous directive. Funds for capabilities specific to the civil sector will now come through Transportation, with participation by the Office of Management and Budget and the White House, Shane said. The first meeting of the newly structured executive committee will be in January.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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