Report: GPS at risk

A study released this week urges the Bush administration to take immediate steps to prevent terrorists from crippling the satellite-based Global Positioning System, a key technology in battlefield systems, navigation systems and other critical applications across government.

The report, "Defending the American Homeland," from the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, recommends President Bush designate GPS radio frequencies and network systems as critical national infrastructure, so these systems receive the same protection given to telecommunications, financial systems, utilities and other core operations of vital interest to the country.

The report also recommends assigning responsibility for its security to the Department of Defense and taking immediate steps to make the network more secure.

The report's other recommendations include:

* Secure all federal networks and information systems, which would require revising agencies' technology-purchasing guidelines to place a premium on security, as well as exploring alternatives to the proposed GovNet system, which would move critical government systems off the public Internet and onto a private Internet-like network.

* Rapidly improve information-gathering capabilities at all government levels, which should include having the Office of Homeland Security establish a group to develop a national strategy for gathering and sharing intelligence.

* Improve intelligence and information sharing among all government levels through the creation of a federal information fusion center where all intelligence data is sent and from where it is dispensed on a need-to-know basis.

* Develop a program to increase airport and seaport controls, including a federal interagency center to analyze the people and products entering the U.S by sea.

* Direct the military to aid federal, state and local officials in their counterterrorism efforts by identifying critical infrastructure nodes, assessing security levels, and providing protection for them, as well as the redundant communications, command and control systems.

Michael Scardaville, policy analyst for homeland security at the Heritage Foundation and a member of the task force, said its plan is to promote its findings to the administration, Congress and state and local governments to "get as many recommendations instituted as possible."

Scardaville said the driving factors of all the report's recommendations were that they could be done "relatively quickly, at a reasonable cost, and without any major shake-ups." He said that adding GPS to the nation's critical infrastructure is a perfect example because it simply requires a presidential directive mandating it "and that is not a difficult thing to do."

The Heritage Foundation sent copies of the report to the White House and some members of Congress, but has yet to receive official feedback, Scardaville said.

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