House Passes NDAA Including New M-Code Coordination Mandate

House Passes NDAA Including New M-Code Coordination Mandate
Wikimedia Commons Photo by Ed Brown.

After wrangling over amendments for hours, the House Armed Service Committee passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (HR 5515) late Wednesday night approving in the process a mandate for a new M-Code coordinating office.

During the markup lawmakers passed an amendment by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) to re-focus the shift to M-Code capable equipment. The measure would require the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the heads of the different services and defense agencies “to designate a component of the Office of the Secretary of Defense to be responsible for coordinating common solutions for M-Code modernization efforts.

“The amendment defines the roles and responsibilities of that chosen component and directs a number of reporting requirements for the modernization efforts,” said Mike Tierney, a senior consultant and budget expert with the defense, space/intelligence, homeland security consulting firm Jacques and Associates, who monitored the entire mark-up.

The component would identify the different elements of Department of Defense (DoD) that need M-Code capable receiver cards and determine the total number of receivers needed by each of those elements as well as by departments and DoD as a whole. It would also determine the projected cost and the timeline for the equipment upgrades, reporting to Congress on all of these findings starting in March 2019.

Perhaps most importantly the new office would “systematically collect integration test data, lessons learned, and design solutions, and share such information with other elements of the Department.” The office is to identify ways to prevent duplication in conducting M-Code modernization efforts as well as ways that avoiding such duplication could save money. This will include maximizing buying power by coordinating integration, testing, and procurement.

The NDAA incorporates other GPS and GNSS-related provisions including a directive to the Secretary of the Air Force to “ensure that military Global Positioning System user equipment terminals have the capability to receive Galileo and QZSS signals, starting with increment 2, including with appropriate mitigation efforts.” Increment 2 refers to the second phase of the Military GPS User Equipment program, or MGUE.

The language was part of a measure passed by the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces earlier this year. Lawmakers also chose to require that user equipment “have the capability to receive non-allied positioning, navigation, and timing signals” if the benefits are found to outweigh the risks “or the risks can be appropriately mitigated.”

The full committee also underscored its support for a GPS backup.

“The committee encourages the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Transportation, and Secretary of Homeland Security to continue to work together to jointly develop and implement a plan for carrying out this backup GPS capability demonstration in 2019 and 2020.” The language also ordered the secretaries to report back on the test.

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