“You Have Put This Nation At Risk!”

July 29, 2015

Saying that there will be a major GPS outage some day and that America “absolutely has to have a backup system,” Congressman John Garamendi (D, CA) joined several other members of Congress at a hearing yesterday chastising the administration for its lack of movement on the issue. Without such a backup system, Garamendi predicted “… a world of hurt for this nation and others.”

At one point he said that people at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) were a “major problem,” and, speaking to OMB and the departments, said “You have put this nation at risk” by failing to act on the issue.

Chairman Duncan Hunter (R, CA) opened the hearing by saying that the government had been studying the issue for 11 years and it was time for action. Garamendi added that there was real time, like what GPS and eLoran provide, and federal time which can mean “forever” when trying to get a decision or something done.

Ms. Karen Van Dyke, a witness at the hearing on behalf of the Department of Transportation, admitted that a GPS complementary and backup capability is “…a problem we need to address and solve” and mentioned increased threats to the GPS system.

Congressman DeFazio (D, OR) spoke about “GPS as a single point of failure,” how over-reliance on it was an “incredible vulnerability for America,” and the need to move forward with a solution.

Both Hunter and Garamendi repeatedly expressed their frustration during the hearing with the lack of progress and the government witnesses’ inability to provide concrete answers.

After quoting Dr. Brad Parkinson (the father of GPS) as describing eLoran as the best and only cost effective backup for GPS, Chairman Hunter asked “Who is arguing that we don’t need a backup for GPS…that we don’t need eLoran and GPS is fine?”

Both Hunter and Garamendi also serve on the House Armed Services Committee. They have alluded before to classified briefings received by that committee that amplify their concerns about the lack of a backup or complementary system for GPS. At this hearing both asked if assigning the responsibility for the issue to a single department, instead of the inter-department PNT Executive Committee, might be part of the answer. Chairman Hunter said that it might be best to give the problem to the Department of Defense.

Toward the end of the hearing Congressman Don Young (R, AK) spoke about running sled dogs in his home state of Alaska. He observed that the dogs all had to pull in the same direction. “If they all went in different directions, I would never get home… and I would have to shoot them!” He quickly promised to not shoot any of the government witnesses, but did encourage them to all work together to get a solution for the nation.

Highlight Reel of Hearing

Video of entire hearing including icebreaker and oil pollution issues

Video of portions of the hearing dealing with a GPS backup & eLoran