Congress to decide Loran’s fate this fall

 - July 28, 2009, 7:01 AM

Come fall, the U.S. Congress will decide the fate of loran and its successor eLoran when members of the Congressional House and Senate Appropriations Committees meet in conference to determine which of their respective favored projects will live on and which will not.

Currently, five separate groups are weighing in on the value of loran, with three in favor of keeping the system operational and two opposed. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has suggested that loran could be canceled without ill effects and save hundreds of millions of dollars. The office rejected claims that loran and eLoran were essential GPS backups, since other systems–which they didn’t specify–could do that. On the other side of the issue is a high-level DOT panel of independent experts chaired by Brad Parkinson, known widely as “The Father of GPS,” which unanimously endorsed loran as the only viable backup.

The House Appropriations Committee has strongly supported loran. The key struggle is within the Senate, where the Authorization Committee, which approves the availability of program funds, supports loran, but the Appropriations Committee, which approves the actual spending of specific program funds, opposes it.

Keeping loran is estimated to cost $35 million a year. As one prominent observer put it, “For aviation, particularly for those who can’t afford inertial backups in the coming satellite world, that’s pretty cheap insurance. What’s more, the environmental costs of closing the stations would be 10 times as much.”