Global Positioning Technology:

Opportunities for Greater Federal Agency Joint Development and Use

RCED-94-280: Published: Sep 28, 1994. Publicly Released: Oct 31, 1994.

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John H. Anderson, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the development of differential global positioning systems (DGPS), focusing on: (1) the extent to which federal agencies have been developing joint systems or sharing equipment; and (2) additional steps needed to enhance joint development or sharing of DGPS equipment, facilities, and information.

GAO found that: (1) between 1988 and 1993, few agencies developed joint DGPS systems or shared DGPS equipment because they were exploring different applications and there was no interagency coordinating mechanism; (2) single-agency systems developed for mapping, surveying, and related activities could not share information because of incompatible equipment and data formats and differing agency operating procedures; (3) agencies had few incentives to share DGPS information or develop joint systems; (4) in 1993, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Aviation Administration modified their DGPS to make them easier for other agencies to use; (5) a Department of Defense and Department of Transportation task force, formed to study DGPS issues, concluded that the ad hoc approach to DGPS development would likely result in unnecessary duplication; (6) the continuing rapid increase in DGPS applications increases the need for effective governmentwide coordination; and (7) the government is addressing technical coordination issues, but it is doubtful whether the coordinating structure will be adequate to ensure joint DGPS development and use.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Consistent with GAO's recommendation, a March 29, 1996 Presidential Decision Directive established the Department of Transportation as the lead agency for all federal civil GPS matters, including the responsibility to coordinate U.S. government-provided GPS civil augmentation systems to minimize cost and duplication effort. According to a DOT GPS official, the latter requirement was instituted as a result of GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help ensure the cost-effectiveness of future federal or federally financed DGPS applications, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should take the lead in establishing a more coordinated governmentwide approach to managing DGPS. Such an approach could take the form of establishing a coordinative mechanism for all civil DGPS applications and giving it the authority to establish policies, procedures, and standards needed to facilitate joint development and use of DGPS technology. It could also take the form of requiring that federal agencies' proposals to add DGPS base stations in fiscal years 1998 and beyond or participate in federal financing of base stations to be acquired by state or local government units demonstrate to OMB that acquiring the base stations and related equipment would be more cost-effective than using base stations owned or operated by other federal agencies.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget


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