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What’s New: RNT Foundation President Dana A. Goward spoke to the President’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council today.

Why It’s Important: Every infrastructure relies on PNT. Yet despite two other Presidential advisory boards/ committees making recommendations for a more complete and resilient PNT architecture in the U.S. nothing has been done.

What Else to Know:

  • From their website: “The President’s NIAC members’ specialized cross-sector expertise offers new perspectives and solutions to complex problems, as well as real-world insight and a collective independent voice.” Here is their charter.
  • This council, as far as we can tell, has never addressed PNT in any depth.
  • Folks making public comment to the council are only allowed 3 minutes. Hence the merciful brevity of the remarks below.


Remarks by Mr. Dana A. Goward, President, RNT Foundation to the President’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council 19 Sept 2023

Good afternoon.

On the 16th of November 2021 as troops massed along the border with Ukraine, Russia destroyed a defunct satellite with a ground-based missile. Several days later Russian media boasted the nation could shoot down all 32 US GPS satellites thereby blinding NATO.

Speaking to a presidential advisory board the following month, the Honorable Caitlin Durkovich from the National Security Council repeated her assessment that GPS is a single point of failure for America.

Positioning, navigation, and timing, or PNT, signals from GPS underpin virtually every technology and infrastructure. Precision agriculture, telecommunications networks, consumer financial transactions, surveying, centimeter level excavation and construction all depend on precise PNT. GPS enables first responders’ radios, helps them get to the scene quickly, and coordinate operations with common operational pictures. It makes all modes of transportation much, much more efficient. At least ten different functions in electrical supply and distribution use PNT, and timing is becoming critical as we move to more efficient grids with things like the North American Synchrophasor Initiative and integrating renewable energy.

Over the last 40 years the precise signals from GPS have transformed our society, economy, and infrastructure. Yet we have no widely available alternative for PNT.

Imagine the problems if our highly vulnerable GPS signals were to suddenly be taken away. We no longer have the equipment, people, nor processes to operate in a pre-GPS world.

Hence MS Durkovich’ s quite accurate assessment that GPS is a single point of failure. A widespread and prolonged interruption of GPS signals is a near existential threat for our nation.

Worse, if that is possible, is that our major adversaries are not nearly at as much risk as we are. Russia and China both have high-powered terrestrial broadcast PNT systems. Their infrastructure is not nearly dependent on weak signals from space as ours is. This is a situation former CIA senior analyst George Beebe calls “an open invitation for mischief.”

A number of groups have urged solutions. The President’s National Space-based PNT Advisory Board has for nearly two decades repeatedly recommended a terrestrial complementary and backup system for GPS. In 2021 the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee recommended the federal government provide funding to underpin a resilient national timing architecture. The Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions has written to Congress and administrations several times with similar recommendations, as has our non-profit, the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation.

Unfortunately, with a few narrow exceptions, the federal government has yet to contract for services or systems to protect itself, let alone the nation as a whole, and our situation worsens by the day.

Widely and easily adopted resilient PNT services are key to resilient infrastructure. We urge this group to learn more about this issue and make appropriate recommendations.