Agencies sit for GPS talks
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Sep 25, 2000
Civilian users of the Defense Department-operated Global Positioning System
will not be shut out of the planning and acquisition of the next generation
of positioning and navigation technology, government officials say.
Since it started operating in the mid-1980s, GPS has been transformed
from a military surveillance and navigation system to an information system
also used by civilian agencies for air and ground transportation, agriculture,
and surveying and mapping.
DOD officials plan to include other federal agencies in developing GPS III,
the system intended to meet users' needs until 2030. The agencies will be
included in working groups and integrated product teams that will define
the requirements and acquire GPS services and satellites, said Ray Swider,
assistant for GPS positioning and navigation in DOD's command, control,
communications and intelligence (C3I) organization.
"Our system can accommodate greater involvement in decision-making," Swider
told members of the Civil GPS Service Interface Committee at a meeting Sept.
18 in Salt Lake City. The committee meets a few times each year to discuss
civilian GPS applications and to bridge the gap between those users and
DOD, which operates the 27-satellite system that provides accurate positioning
and timing information to users on the ground, in the air and in space.
GPS broadcasts separate signals for military and civilian users that
are used to guide weapons, time cellular calls, and navigate aircraft and
cars. In the coming years, one additional military and two additional civil
signals will be added to new satellites that will improve the accuracy and
redundancy of the system and meet strict safety requirements for aviation.
After the Transportation Department failed to receive funding on behalf
of all civilian agencies for the development of new civil GPS signals in
its fiscal 2000 budget, the Clinton administration decided to include the
funding for civil upgrades in the DOD request for fiscal 2001.
Because defense appropriators are more familiar with GPS, the move was
successful, said Joseph Canny, deputy assistant secretary for navigation
systems policy at DOT. For fiscal 2001, civilian modernization efforts will
receive $9 million, and a five-year plan to include such funding in the
DOD budget provides a total of $100 million.
Eugene Conti, DOT assistant secretary for transportation policy, and
Arthur Money, assistant secretary of Defense for C3I, signed a memorandum
of agreement Aug. 12 that describes how the Pentagon will consider the needs
of civil users of GPS and implement modernized civil GPS signals using funding
provided in its budget for that purpose.
DOD is including participants from civilian agencies in its decision- making
process as it creates GPS III, Swider said. Personnel in the GPS Joint Program
Office at Los Angeles Air Force Base are reviewing proposals for system
architecture studies of GPS III. Representatives from the Federal
Aviation Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard will participate in the
evaluation, and more representatives from civil agencies will be added.
Canny stressed the importance of input from the civil community in the
next system's development.
"The design of GPS III is too important to be left to the system contractors,"
Canny said. "This is our collective future. We need to raise our sights
and pay attention to that in the coming months."
The civilian community needs to look at how it will combine the capabilities
of its own GPS-based systems — such as the FAA's Wide Area Augmentation
System and Local Area Augmentation System, and communications systems such
as NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System — with GPS to get the
best possible positioning and timing service, Canny said.
Lessons can be learned from the organized infrastructure that DOD maintains
to define system requirements, which does not exist on the civil side, he
The Interagency GPS Executive Board, which President Clinton established
to coordinate GPS management and modernization, would be a centerpiece of
the cooperation, Swider said. The military GPS Joint Program Office could
be converted to a national program office, he said.
DOT and DOD lead the interagency executive board jointly, with participation
from the Commerce, Justice, State, Agriculture and Interior departments
and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Greg Finley, director of the executive secretariat for the board, said
the inclusion of civil agencies in DOD decision-making goes a long way toward
meeting civil requirements for future GPS enhancements and helping DOD offer
"It helps the civil community understand how the program side of GPS
is done," Finley said, adding that he hopes it will force civil users to