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Turner Language in NDAA Seeks to Protect Military's use of GPS

May 13, 2011
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Congressman Mike Turner successfully included language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which requires the Secretary of Defense to notify Congress if he determines there is widespread interference with the military’s use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) caused by a commercial communications service. Turner, the House Armed Services Subcommittee Chairman on Strategic Forces, has legislative jurisdiction over space and satellite systems, included the provision in his Mark of the NDAA last week. Passage by the full committee by a vote of 60-1 late Wednesday night will bring the bill to a vote before the full House in two weeks.

“When it comes to GPS spectrum, government agencies must consult with the Defense Department on any effects. Our servicemembers who are on the ground in two wars count on an uninterrupted GPS capability to do their jobs. This language creates a public notification so we know the magnitude of the problem,” said Turner.

In January 2011, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted a conditional waiver to a single commercial communications company, called LightSquared, to build tens of thousands of ground stations that may cause widespread interference to neighboring GPS signals. The Commander of Air Force Space Command, General William Shelton, told Turner in March 2011 that, based on analysis he had seen to-date, “that virtually every GPS receiver out there would be affected.”

Turner further stated, “We need our government, and the FCC, to do the right thing. It is unacceptable for our warfighters to be put at greater risk or made less effective as a result of LightSquared’s operations. We need assurances from the FCC and this Administration that it will fully resolve the harmful interference issue prior to granting LightSquared final authorization to provide service.”

The relevant text of the NDAA follows below:

Section 911-Notification Requirement for Harmful Interference to Department of Defense Global Positioning System

(a) NOTIFICATION REQUIRED.-Upon a determination by the Secretary of Defense that a commercial communications service will cause or is causing widespread harmful interference with Global Positioning System receivers used by the Department of Defense, the Secretary shall submit to Congress notice of such determination.

(b) CONTENTS.-The notice required under subsection (a) shall include-

(1) a summary of the reasons that a commercial communications service will cause or is causing harmful interference with Global Positioning System receivers used by the Department of Defense;

(2) a description of the entity that will cause or is causing such harmful interference;

(3) a description of the magnitude and duration of such harmful interference or the potential magnitude and duration of such harmful interference; and

(4) a summary of the Secretary’s plans for addressing such harmful interference.

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