Clinton budget to fund enhancements to civil GPS

The president's fiscal 2001 budget proposal takes a new approach to funding and accelerating enhancements to the 27-satellite Global Positioning System (GPS) that will benefit civil users of the Defense Department-operated system.

The funding to support the civil modernization is listed in DOD's fiscal 2001 budget request as an above-the-line increase of $66 million. An initiative announced by Vice President Al Gore would have funded the enhancements with DOD and Transportation Department money, but Congress did not approve it. Instead, funding is being placed in DOD's budget on behalf of the Transportation Department and will not compete for appropriations with other DOD programs.

Acceleration of modernization includes retrofitting 12 of the Block 2R satellites built by Lockheed Martin Corp. with a second civil signal and a low-power military signal. They also may be outfitted with the capability to reprogram power from the ground, which would improve the military's ability to overcome jamming and interference with the military GPS signal, government and industry sources said. The modernization plan also includes upgrades to the computer systems that monitor and control the GPS satellites.

The next batch of satellites, the Block 2F fleet being built by Boeing Co., will all carry the same enhancements plus a third civil GPS signal that will meet the Federal Aviation Administration's safety requirements.

Gore's plan to have the Transportation Department contribute funding to the development of new civil GPS signals by 2003 was stopped when Congress refused to approve the agency's $17 million contribution in the fiscal 2000 budget. Another glitch in Gore's initiative is that although many of the current GPS satellites have outlived their expected lifetimes, they will not need to be replaced for several years.

A revised plan to put new civil and military GPS signals on existing satellites without changing the launch schedule to replace older satellites altogether will move up the initial capabilities to 2009 and 2014, respectively.


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