Trump Administration Promotes GPS Education, Security

The Trump Administration has launched an initiative to boost the resilience of critical infrastructure, including telecommunications, that relies on Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) services (GPS being the most familiar one of those). 

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday (Feb. 12) on the responsible use of PNT that "directs the Federal Government to develop guidance that mitigates the [cybersecurity] risks of disruption to critical infrastructure that rely on PNT services." 

It is the first executive order on PNT use, said a senior White House official. PNT is used for smart phone applications, intelligence transport, precision agriculture, among many other things. The order is meant to provide tools for mitigating potential threats to PNT and also educating the public about how critical those services are. 

According to PNT expert Kevin Coggins, VP of Booz Allen Hamilton, PNT "enables everything from our smartphones to bank transactions," and is the same system "behind the majority of U.S. critical infrastructure, from power generation and telecommunications to our ability to transport goods and services."  

A key to the executive order will be NIST's creation, in partnership with the private and public sector, of so-called "PNT profiles" that identify the "systems, networks and assets that are dependent on PNT services." The idea is to help those sectors detect disruption and understand and manage the risks. The profiles will be reviewed every two years. Coggins has estimated that the loss of PNT could cost the country $10 billion per day.  

The Trump plan is also to test vulnerabilities in the PNT system, then update the profiles accordingly. Coggins calls GPS an old standard that is "easy to disrupt."

The profiles will also be used to draft language in government contracts for PNT-related products or services as a way to encourage the private sector to voluntarily develop robust PNT cybersecurity. 

The order directs the development of a plan to test non-satellite based positioning services--fiber, for example--or multiple PNT services to provide alternatives in the event of system compromise. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has already created a fiber-based time calibration service that telecommunications companies can use for a global time standard that White House officials say is more accurate than the current internet-based standard by a factor of one thousand.  

“President Trump’s commitment to making America safe and resilient is put into action by this Executive Order that will make the positioning, navigation, and timing services that keep our country running more reliable,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “The efforts resulting from this action will help protect against costly disruptions in PNT services that can put Americans in harm’s way.” 

“The GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA) welcomes today’s Executive Order recognizing the critical economic and societal benefits of GPS and other Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS)," said J. David Grossman, executive director of the GPS Innovation Alliance. "Resiliency is among the core attributes that have made GPS the gold standard for delivering positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) functions to our military as well as a wide range of other sectors, including transportation, agriculture, electricity, and finance. Today's Executive Order represents a crucial next step in ongoing efforts to maintain the security, robustness, and redundancy of PNT capabilities, including GPS, that millions of Americans rely on every day. GPSIA looks forward to working with key government stakeholders to support the implementation of this effort.”

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.