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Highlights

The Global Positioning System (GPS), which provides positioning, navigation, and timing data to users worldwide, has become essential to U.S. national security and a key tool in an expanding array of public service and commercial applications at home and abroad. The United States provides GPS data free of charge. The Air Force, which is responsible for GPS acquisition, is in the process of modernizing GPS. In light of the importance of GPS, the modernization effort, and international efforts to develop new systems, GAO was asked to undertake a broad review of GPS. Specifically, GAO assessed progress in (1) acquiring GPS satellites, (2) acquiring the ground control and user equipment necessary to leverage GPS satellite capabilities, and evaluated (3) coordination among federal agencies and other organizations to ensure GPS missions can be accomplished. To carry out this assessment, GAO's efforts included reviewing and analyzing program documentation, conducting its own analysis of Air Force satellite data, and interviewing key military and civilian officials.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense Because of the criticality of the GPS system and potential delays, and given the importance of GPS to the civil community, the Secretary of Defense should appoint a single authority to oversee the development of the GPS system, including DOD space, ground control, and user equipment assets, to ensure that the program is well executed and resourced and that potential disruptions are minimized. The appointee should have authority to ensure DOD space, ground control, and user equipment are synchronized to the maximum extent practicable; and coordinate with the existing positioning, navigation, and timing infrastructure to assess and minimize potential service disruptions should the satellite constellation decrease in size for an extended period of time.
Closed - Not Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Not Implemented.

In providing comments on this report, DOD concurred with this recommendation but has not taken any actions necessary to implement it. In its letter to GAO, DOD recognized the importance of a centralizing authority to oversee the continuing synchronized evolution of GPS, and reaffirmed that the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration is the Department's principle staff assistant to oversee Positioning, Navigation, and Timing, and, specifically, is designated with authority and responsibility for all aspects of GPS. This designation is contained in DOD Directive 4650.05, issued in February 2008. On November 24, 2009, DOD issued formal DOD Instruction 4650.06, "DOD Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Executive Committee and Working Groups." DOD stated that the instruction specifies that the committee and its working groups provide the means for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration to execute his/her assigned GPS responsibilities. However, neither the instruction or the directive specify a single authority to oversee the development of the GPS system, to include the DOD space, ground control, and user equipment assets. DOD plans no further action to implement this recommendation.
Department of Transportation Because of the criticality of the GPS system and potential delays, and given the importance of GPS to the civil community, the Secretaries of Defense and Transportation, as the co-chairs of the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing, should address, if weaknesses are found, civil agency concerns for developing requirements, and determine mechanisms for improving collaboration and decision making and strengthening civil agency participation.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

In providing comments on this report, DOT concurred with this recommendation. On May 26, 2010, the Secretaries of Defense and Transportation, as the co-chairs of the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing signed an updated GPS Interagency Forum for Operational Requirements Charter. The updated charter addresses the minimum documentation required to be included in a proposed new GPS requirement package submitted to the Interagency Forum for Operational Requirements. According to a Department of Transportation official, the revised document answers concerns expressed by the civil community in the past. Since GPS requirements are a subset of PNT requirements, the Department of Transportation is also working with civil agencies to identify positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) requirements which represent their stakeholder needs. According to a Department of Transportation official, many civil agencies have never documented overarching PNT requirements before, other than specifying a system solution such as GPS. PNT requirements are now being reviewed as part of the civil PNT requirements process.
Department of Defense Because of the criticality of the GPS system and potential delays, and given the importance of GPS to the civil community, the Secretaries of Defense and Transportation, as the co-chairs of the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing, should address, if weaknesses are found, civil agency concerns for developing requirements, and determine mechanisms for improving collaboration and decision making and strengthening civil agency participation.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

In providing comments on this report, DOD concurred with this recommendation. In its letter to GAO, DOD stated that it has worked with civil agencies to put in place a GPS Interagency Requirements Plan. DOD stated that it will continue to seek ways to improve civil agency understanding of the DOD requirements process and work to strengthen civil agency participation. On May 26, 2010, the Secretaries of Defense and Transportation, as the co-chairs of the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing signed an updated GPS Interagency Forum for Operational Requirements Charter. The GPS Interagency Forum for Operational Requirements is the entry point for civilian requirements for GPS. The updated charter addresses the minimum documentation required to be included in a proposed new GPS requirement package submitted to the Interagency Forum for Operational Requirements.

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