Image: NASA

Note: The author is President of the RNT Foundation


PNT Advisory Board at 20: Still serving up big ideas

March 28, 2024  – By 

  •  Quickly prototype a GNSS interference detection and reporting system.
  • Implement an internet-based High Accuracy and Robustness Service (HARS)for GPS.
  • Relax export controls that currently restrict use of adaptive anti-jam antennas.

These are just three of the efforts the U.S. government is pursuing as a result of recommendations from the President’s National Space-based Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Advisory Board.

For 20 years the PNT Advisory Board has been providing the government independent expert advice about GPS and PNT.

Established by presidential directive in 2004 and administered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act by NASA, its charter has been regularly renewed. The charter provides that the board shall:

  • Be composed of experts from outside the United States government.
  • Seek input from state and local governments, industry and academia on developments in the application of space-based PNT technologies.
  • Evaluate national and international needs for changes in space-based PNT capabilities and assess possible trade-offs among options.
  • Provide independent advice and recommendations to the National PNT Executive Committee (co-chaired by the Deputy Secretaries of Defense and Transportation) on policy, system requirements, and program needs.

While “space-based” is in its name and charter, the board has long recognized that terrestrial assets also can play an important role in serving PNT users by augmenting, reinforcing, and complementing GPS. The use of complementary systems, for example, could help demotivate intentional jammers and spoofers and help safeguard users during any interference event. Thus, the board often considers a wide range of capabilities and systems.

The board also discusses policy, education, international relations and other issues important to the PNT community. As one board member commented, “Technology doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is developed by, and intended to serve, people. If you don’t recognize that, you are missing most of the picture.”

The current board’s membership includes an impressive array of experts in PNT policy and technology. Its 29 members include a former governor, a retired admiral, three retired generals, GPS’ original chief architect, a former undersecretary, a former assistant secretary, three former presidents of the Institute of Navigation (ION), three international members and experts from across academia and industry.

Chaired by former Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, the board’s primary efforts are driven by its six subcommittees, reflecting a holistic approach to effective PNT:

  • Strategy, Policy & Governance
  • Protect, Toughen & Augment
  • Emerging Capabilities, Applications & Sectors
  • Education & Science Innovation
  • International Engagement
  • Communications & External Relations

While the subcommittees meet in fact-finding sessions to gather data, the PNT Advisory Board’s deliberations are public. Semi-annual meetings in  Washington, D.C. and other locations may be attended by anyone, either in person or virtually. Announcements on the board’s webpage and in the Federal Register provide details before each meeting. By law, the minutes of each meeting are available to the public, and video recordings of meetings are normally posted as well.

Input from the public about PNT issues of concern is also welcome to inform the board’s current and future deliberations. Information on how to send input will be posted with the meeting announcement here

According to board member Jeff Shane, former undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the PNT Advisory Board is evidence of government at its best. “The very fact that the board was established underscores our government’s willingness to hear and consider the widest variety of views and input. It should be a source of optimism, and even pride, for the entire PNT community.”

National Space-based PNT Advisory Board

The next meeting will be from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. MDT, April 24, 2024, and from 9:00 a.m. to noon April 25 at The Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Click here for information on a reception on April 23, featuring Gen. David Thompson.