Senate Measure Seeks Report on GPS Vulnerabilities

 - August 23, 2021, 11:37 AM

Congress is stepping up its scrutiny of the security of the Global Positioning System (GPS), including a measure in the recently introduced Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal 2022 that seeks a report on vulnerabilities to hostile actions.

Introduced by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence chair Mark Warner (D-Virginia), the authorization bill, S.2610, calls for the Director of National Intelligence, working with the Secretaries of Defense and Commerce, to conduct a joint study on the vulnerability of GPS, as well as actions being taken by the various government agencies to mitigate associated risks.

The measure specifies that the study should look at vulnerabilities; potential negative effects from prolonged GPS outage from national security and economic standpoints; and alternatives that could be a backup for positioning, navigation, and timing for civil, commercial, and government users. Further, the study should detail actions planned or undertaken by the intelligence community and various agencies to mitigate risk. The measure directs that a report should be submitted to Congress within 180 days.

Last year, the Center for Strategic and International Studies released a Space Threat Assessment that looked at potential risks, including capabilities of countries such as China to jam GPS signals. “Currently, China has the ability to jam common satellite communication bands and GPS signals, and it has made the development and deployment of satellite jamming systems a high priority. China is further developing jamming systems that will be able to target a large range of frequencies of commercial satcom, as well as U.S. military protected communication bands,” according to the report.

Meanwhile, the report noted that “the Russian government has been accused of widespread GPS jamming and spoofing since 2014, affecting civilian and military vessels near Russian territory, commercial and civilian aircraft in the Arctic Circle, and handheld consumer devices in downtown Moscow and St. Petersburg.” Russia has denied wrongdoing, the report said, “despite overwhelming evidence that Russia has employed the use of mobile, ground-based electronic counterspace weapons on a regular basis both within its borders and abroad.”

The report looked at other vulnerabilities from countries such as Iran and North Korea.