Editor’s Note: The below is yet another excellent article by award-winning journalist Dee Ann Divis looking at how specific lawmakers and the new administration may view PNT issues and act to protect our least visible and most vulnerable infrastructure. For anyone who cares about PNT in America, it’s very much worth taking the time to read through once or twice . DG
How Will GNSS Fare Under a Trump Administration?
Washington View, November/December 2016
Dee Ann Divis
With the Republican Party now entirely in charge of Washington’s prime policy real estate the neighborhood is going to change. The current residents are warily watching the newcomers take measurements for a major remodel of agencies, lobbying rules, national priorities, and international relationships, and everyone is assessing the implications of the new landscape.
Although the look of the town’s ultimate layout is far from final, President-elect Donald Trump has sketched out enough of his plans to make some guesses on the shifts that could affect the GPS program — and GNSS in general — in the coming months.
In an October policy speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, then-candidate Trump laid out 20+ action items for his first 100 days. Not surprisingly, changing the nation’s approach to position, navigation and timing (PNT) programs was not on the list — nor is it likely to be.
Although budget issues, spectrum conflicts, and signal jamming present escalating challenges — and a review of GPS policy has been on Obama’s long-range to-do list — the GPS program is noncontroversial, generally working well, and likely to remain the world’s PNT “gold standard” for some time.
“GPS policy updating would not be one of my priorities,” said a policy expert familiar with the program. The National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing “is largely working the way that people intended it to work,” the expert said, pointing out that the most pressing issues — consistent funding shortages impacting the Department of Transportation’s GPS obligations and disagreements with the Federal Communications Commission over spectrum and the official use of other PNT constellations — are fundamentally separation-of-powers issues.
“Those are problems with the Congress and oversight; those aren’t really subject to presidential policy,” the expert told Inside GNSS.
The new administration also appears unlikely to make immediate changes to the GPS program as part of early efforts to change the way Washington does business.
“This new administration, from what we can tell, from a space policy standpoint, they seem committed to leveraging domestic, commercial, private industry space capabilities, as much as feasible — which we, in our business, are encouraged to hear,” said Mike Tierney, vice president at Jacques & Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in defense, space/intelligence, homeland security and related industries.
However, if the Trump administration looks at the military space portfolio with that commitment in mind, said Tierney, GPS would likely not be their first target for change as other military systems seem amenable to a more commercial approach that could have greater impact.
“If you’re the Trump administration and you’re looking to change the way the military does space, GPS is probably not your first candidate to look at,” Tierney said.
That doesn’t mean that PNT-related changes won’t occur under the Trump administration — perhaps, even, for the better.