President Bush Orders Improvements To GPS For Civilian Use
President Bush has
signed a new policy that guarantees the availability and
reliability of GPS for civilian use. And despite some exaggerated
press reports, there is no imminent threat that GPS will be shut
"GPS is absolutely critical to safety of flight, particularly in
the future as the FAA decommissions some land-based navigation aids
and transitions to a satellite-based system," said AOPA President
Phil Boyer. "This new policy recognizes that and adds even greater
protections for civilian use of GPS without user fees. This is
tremendous news for general aviation."
AOPA provided significant input to the new presidential
directive on global positioning system policy and was the only
general aviation organization to participate in the process.
"The press got it wrong about a GPS shutdown," Boyer continued.
"The military has always maintained the option to deny GPS to a
hostile force within a limited geographical area, and they continue
to have that option under this new policy. But now there is a very
clear directive that this be done without unduly disrupting
The White House said Wednesday that any shutdown of the system
within parts of the United States would come under only the most
remarkable circumstances. The presidential directive is very clear:
the government is to "provide uninterrupted availability of
positioning, navigation, and timing services." In other words, the
GPS signal is supposed to be available all the time to domestic
users. (And it should be noted that the government kept the GPS
system operating during the aftermath of the September 11, 2001,
New in this policy is
the coordinated effort of multiple agencies to protect the domestic
GPS signal from accidental or intentional jamming.
"The White House expects the government to deal with
interference in a matter of hours, rather than days," said Randy
Kenagy, AOPA senior director of advanced technology. "The president
directed the Defense, Homeland Security, Transportation, and
Commerce departments to be aggressive in locating and eliminating
any GPS interference, a fundamental necessity if the FAA expects
pilots to use GPS as their primary navigation aid."
The military will continue its programs to deny hostile use of
GPS in local theaters of operation, but such jamming must be done
"without unduly disrupting civil and commercial access to civil
positioning, navigation, and timing services outside an area of
military operations, or for homeland security purposes," according
to the directive.
And for the first time, the military is directed to not unduly
disrupt GPS for training purposes. "We pushed to get that in the
policy," said Kenagy. "That should mean fewer and smaller planned
GPS outages in the United States." The directive also mandates a
better system for notifying the public of GPS outages and
Finally, the president ordered the military to consider civilian
needs as it modernizes the global positioning system.
"All in all, this presidential directive is an extraordinary
affirmation of GPS and its criticality to civilian activities,"
said AOPA President Boyer. "And it's all the more gratifying
thinking back to 1990 when AOPA told Congress, 'the Future Is Now,'
and pushed for civilian use of the military's GPS system."