Headlines: House Takes Action on Backup for GPS; SASC Discusses Celestial Navigation, Other Alternatives to GPS; About GPS Backup / Complementary PNT
GPS Bulletin

Information for Policymakers from the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT)

September 30, 2016

House Takes Action on Backup for GPS

On September 26, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5978, which includes language promoting the need for a complement to and backup for GPS. Section 106 ("Backup Global Positioning System") provides that, "the Commandant of the Coast Guard, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, shall provide for the establishment, sustainment, and operation of a reliable land-based enhanced LORAN, or eLORAN, positioning, navigation, and timing system to provide a complement to and backup for the Global Positioning System... to ensure the availability of uncorrupted and nondegraded positioning, navigation, and timing signals for military and civilian users in the event that GPS signals are corrupted, degraded, unreliable, or otherwise unavailable." Learn more at

Prior to the introduction of the bill, the House Transportation Committee held a hearing on September 7 that included discussion on backup for GPS. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Paul Thomas testified that, "the Coast Guard is supporting DHS in their role on the National Executive Committee for Space-based PNT. That committee is undertaking currently a requirements generation effort which will define the requirements for a complementary PNT system. Once those requirements are defined, the Executive Committee will then begin the assessment of competing technologies that might meet that requirement." View hearing at

SASC Discusses Celestial Navigation, Other Alternatives to GPS

During a September 15 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) asked what was being done in relation to celestial navigation training and what was being done to remove dependency from electronic devices. Navy Admiral John Richardson responded, "with respect to minimizing our vulnerability to electronic navigation — Global Positioning Systems and those sorts of systems — really a multifaceted approach. We have started teaching celestial navigation, and so those types of courses are back in the curriculum at the Naval Academy and other places.... there are other ways to get precision navigation and timing into our systems, which is so critical not only for navigation, but also for weapon systems performance and everything across the board. And so that's an area of emphasis as well, and these would be systems that would be independent of GPS and potentially more precise than GPS." View hearing at

About GPS Backup / Complementary PNT

The GPS program has a long track record of providing reliable positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) service. However, the GPS radio signals are vulnerable to a wide variety of problems, ranging from natural interference caused by the Sun to malicious attacks involving jamming and spoofing. With the widespread use of GPS as a free source of precise PNT, especially in critical infrastructures, the agencies of the National Executive Committee for Space-Based PNT are currently engaging critical infrastructure owners and operators in a study to define and validate current and future positioning, navigation, and timing [or PNT] requirements for critical infrastructure.

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