“We’ve got a problem!” – Congressman John Garamendi

July 27, 2015

Speaking to the DC section of the Institute of Navigation last Wednesday, Congressman John Garamendi (D, CA) voiced his serious concern about the government’s inaction to protect GPS. Pointing out that President Clinton had first sounded the alarm in 1998 about the nation’s over-reliance on GPS and the vulnerability of satellite signals, the congressman said “We’ve got a problem” and pledged his best efforts to solve it. – See video of his talk.

Held at the US Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, the program for the meeting was “Keeping and Sharing Time – Policy and Demonstrations.” Congressman Garamendi wryly pointed out that “government time” was a completely different issue from what others usually think about. “Studying” for 17 years how to close a national security gap and augment and backup GPS, was one example.

Also on the program were:

Dr. Sarah Mahmood from the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology directorate discussed DHS’ efforts with a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to look at eLoran for wide-area, wireless precise time. Video.

Dr. Ron Bruno from Harris spoke about the importance of synchronized precise time in the nation’s aviation and airspace systems. He stated that wireless eLoran was an inexpensive way to ensure synchronization and that the aviation ground systems Harris supports would use it, if it were available. Video.

Mr. Charles Schue, CEO of UrsaNav, spoke about the need to augment GPS in all critical infrastructure sectors. He also demonstrated an eLoran signal being transmitted from Wildwood, New Jersey and compared to the US master clock at the Naval Observatory. The eLoran signal matched the master clock within 12 billionths of a second (12 nanoseconds). Mr. Ed Powers from the observatory came forward and informed the group that the signal had held within 60 nanoseconds for the last several days, which he called very, very good. It was also noted that the transmitter being used had been idle for several years and that performance would undoubtedly become even better. Video.

To kick off the meeting, the out-going Superintendent, CAPT Brian Connon, USN, gave a very nice presentation on the history and mission of the observatory. Video. I found it very interesting, along with the tour of the facility after the meeting. A limited number of public tours are available. I highly recommend it as USNO is a little known but fascinating place.