The US Department of Transportation is seeking “…one or more PNT technologies to back up signals from GPS and to ensure resiliency of PNT for U.S. critical infrastructure operations.”  The Request For Information (RFI)  was published in the Federal Register today.

An RFI is often one of the first steps in the government’s process for acquiring a system or service.  In this case, it looks like the government might want to buy a service.

The notice says the government is “… open to suggestions from industry regarding methods of accessing such services and associated cost-sharing arrangements, including, but not limited to Public-Private-Partnerships, Service Level Agreements, or other Cooperative Arrangements…”

Using such an arrangement, where a commercial entity builds and operates a system and the government just subscribes to the service, could have many advantages including:

  • Avoiding a large capital expense for the government.  Not only is finding a large sum of money in the federal budget difficult, but it takes a long time to get it appropriated.
  • Avoiding the overhead and cumbersome nature of a government major system acquisition.  The major system acquisition process takes a very long time, requires lots of staff, and can be as expensive as the goods being purchased. By just specifying the services/signals to be provided, the government can avoid all that.
  • Having the service in place much sooner.  It would take the government three to five years to get an acquisition underway and a large pot of money appropriated.  We understand that, if idle government infrastructure was re-purposed, a timing system could be up and running in under a year from the date the agreement was signed.
  • Making the system more productive and useful.  A commercial provider is more likely to be able to quickly adapt to new uses and users that don’t interfere with the basic service.
  • Greatly reducing cost for the government over time. If the commercial provider is able to generate income by providing value-added services, the government’s subscription costs could be offset by a portion of those additional revenues.

The RNT Foundation has long supported the public-private-partnership/service level agreement/cooperative agreement approach as the best and quickest way to safeguard America.