By: Tom Roeder
February 1, 2016
The Defense Department’s top researchers want ground-based miniature atomic clocks to avert a global catastrophe if the orbiting timepieces that make up the Colorado Springs-based Global Positioning System stop ticking.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced a crash program to invent miniature advanced atomic clocks that reflects growing worries about the vulnerability of Air Force Space Command’s GPS satellites.
“Among their myriad potential advantages, better clocks could reduce one of the more worrisome modern-day national security vulnerabilities: a deep and growing dependence on the Global Positioning System,” DARPA said in a news release.
Military and civilian uses of GPS have expanded greatly since the Persian Gulf War in 1991, when the classified system was revealed to the world. The space-based timing signals broadcast by the 32 satellites operated by airmen at Schriever Air Force Base are used to control the globe’s financial transactions, telephone networks and the Internet in the civilian world. For the military, GPS puts bombs on target, keeps troops from getting lost and controls the growing fleet of combat drones.
In Colorado Springs, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Wes Clark oversaw development of the program in the 1970s. The use of GPS in everyday life makes it an attractive target for those who want to attack America, he said.
“Can you imagine our society today without GPS?” Clark asked. “It would pretty much be a global catastrophe.