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US TO SHUT DOWN GPS IN CRISIS?

The White House has completed yet another piece of its never-ending review of the Clinton-era 1996 National Space Policy.U.S. SPACE-BASED POSITIONING, NAVIGATION, AND TIMING POLICY, signed by the President on 8 December 2004, "establishes guidance and implementation actions for space-based positioning, navigation, and timing programs, augmentations, and activities for U.S. national and homeland security, civil, scientific, and commercial purposes."In other words its a GPS policy, and pretty aggressive one at that.Galileo.jpgThe policy, which also comes in a classified flavor, reportedly resulted in a directive to the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) to develop plans to shut down civil use of U.S. GPS signals in certain emergencies and to deny advesaries access to foreign space-based satellite navigation services, such as the European Union's Galileo system.Does anybody remember when Washington claimed that Galileo was unnecessary, because we would never shut GPS down?The Europeans have been buzzing about what the U.S. might do to Galileo in a crisis. Publication of a new Air Force Counterspace Doctrine fueled these fears, after Peter Teets asked a rather provocative question in the foreward:

What will we do ten years from now when American lives are put at risk because an adversary chooses to leverage the global positioning system or perhaps the Galileo constellation to attack American forces with precision?
Comments like this have a way of being taken the "wrong way." An ugly row recently erupted after a British paper reported that European participants at a Royal United Services Institute conference thought they heard U.S. officials threaten "irreversible action" to deny hostile powers access to Galileo in a crisis--although other participants disputed that any threat was issued.Some of the dispute can, I think, be traced to a difference in thinking about satellite navigation. Whereas Americans tend to think of GPS as a military application that civilians are permitted to use (reflecting the military origins of GPS), much of the rest of the world sees it as a global public utility. I suspect we'll be hearing a lot about this policy by Galileo's supporters.--Jeffrey Lewis
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