The Time and the Place: Threats From Within - Inside GNSS - Global Navigation Satellite Systems Engineering, Policy, and Design

The Time and the Place: Threats From Within

It has become fashionable of late in U.S. government circles to undermine the U.S. defense forces. The General Accounting Office (GAO), the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and the White House (POTUS) have all pitched in, doing their share to weaken the capability and downgrade the tools with which our warfighters enter conflict.

For the details on the first two referenced above, see this month’s Washington View column. For the third instance, see the newspapers or Twitter.

Drawn up to oppose these attacks we find the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the U.S. Congress and the Pentagon, backed by its various military departments: the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Space Force.

Sixteen years ago, when the Lightsquared/Ligado campaign started, I would have wagered my life on the U.S. military’s ability to turn back this internal threat. When a significant portion of Congress arrays itself alongside, the outcome should be clear.

I’m not so sure any longer.

Today or tomorrow, all U.S. citizens and by extension the country’s allies may have their lives forcefully placed into the betting ring with no assurance that the United States of America’s armed forces will be able to fully and adequately defend them.

You think I’m exaggerating, an alarmist. See the red-and-blue highlighted quotes in the Washington View column, by the Air Force general who is Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force, by the Undersecretary for Research and Engineering in the Department of Defense, and by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. Who should know, all of them.

Now that I sit back and look at them, the two sentences opening this column really shock me. They would have been unthinkable in any previous era.

Yet here we are.

To be sure, economic advantage awaits those individuals, organizations and countries who fully exploit wideband spectrum and 5G and all the rest. It would be shortsighted to turn away from such advances.

But crippling GPS is not the only avenue to get there. It’s not either/or. We can continue to have a viable GPS, core to our defense strategies and capabilities, and also have plenty of spectrum for other uses.

It just so happens that one entity, one entity alone, has in its back pocket a modified license— modified under dubious circumstances and without scientific grounding—to assert and insert itself and its damage into the national and international landscape, one that is already full of threats.

The situation is akin to a mall developer buying a residential lot in your neighborhood, gerrymandering the zoning regulations, and putting up a big box store crowding your property line.

That may not be an accurately scientific analogy, but you get the picture.

I literally just hung up from a U.S. defense and security-related briefing call in which this sentence was uttered by a knowledgeable party.

“If people really knew the levels of [GPS] jamming and spoofing, they’d be terrified.”

Such were the external threats under discussion. It’s not bad enough, we have to have internal threats as well?

The prescribed actions are predictable and few. Write your Congresspersons. While you’re at it, write the Secretary of Defense.

I’m afraid the FCC chairman and board are tone deaf, so don’t bother there.

Vote your conscience.