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Blog Editor’s Note: This article proposes an idea that has been raised periodically, either designating GPS as critical infrastructure or, as in this case, space systems generally.

The overall goal is to provide greater visibility and focus on the importance and criticality of space systems. Presumably this would lead to greater efforts to ensure they are properly protected and secure.

Believe it or not, a big challenge to designating GPS as critical infrastructure has been that GPS is a government system.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for critical infrastructure protection. It has designated 16 critical infrastructure sectors to protect. Some examples are the transportation sector, chemical sector, and the energy sector. The way DHS tries to protect infrastructure is by gathering commercial entities from each sector in various forums to discuss issues, develop best practices, gain understanding, consider possible government actions, etc. 

Not a model that could be applied to a government owned satellite system like GPS.

It might be one that could be applied to commercial space. If so, the next question would be whether the appropriate government lead would be DHS, NASA because they have the technical expertise, Commerce as suggested by the authors, or some other entity. Perhaps It could be a non-governmental entity. Maybe a beefed up version of the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center.



It’s time to declare space systems as critical infrastructure

Such a move “would galvanize the policy and stakeholder attention and resources needed to secure these systems,” argue two government space experts.

In the United States, our economy, national security and everyday lifestyle rely heavily upon thousands of space systems in orbit.

For instance, the Global Positioning System is vital for shipping and transportation, including ground, air traffic and marine navigation — anywhere in the world. Communication and information processing, including the world’s developing 5G networks, rely heavily on space-based infrastructure. Space-based systems are also critical for national security missions that protect our homeland and enable operations overseas. We have long counted on satellites for command and control of our armed forces, missile guidance, early warning and intelligence.