NATIONAL SECURITY INSTITUTE PUBLISHES NEW BACKGROUNDER: “Beyond GPS: The Frontier of Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Services”

December 2, 2020
Contact: Grant Haver


National Security Institute Publishes New Backgrounder as part of NSI 2020:
“Beyond GPS: The Frontier of Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Services”


Arlington, VA –Today, the National Security Institute (NSI) at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School published its latest Backgrounder, “Beyond GPS: The Frontier of Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Services” by NSI Visiting Fellow Lori Gordon and NSI Senior Fellow Bryan Smith as part of its Technology Innovation and American National Security project.


This Backgrounder highlights critical issues facing policymakers working to maintain America’s technological advantage in Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT), including:


  • Describing GPS’ critical role and vulnerabilities in supporting national defense and critical infrastructure.
  • Mapping the policy and legislative direction for enhancing PNT resilience.
  • Characterizing contrasting industrial policies for improving GPS resilience and developing alternative PNT technologies.
  • Identifying key items to watch in the future.


“As we become more dependent on autonomous and other advanced systems and networks, innovation in PNT services should be considered a national priority for both our security and economic viability,” said Ms. Gordon.  She continued, “What is also critical in the decision calculus in our path to reliable PNT is the security, availability, and interoperability of the supporting PNT technologies, systems, and vendors that must be considered – think of the national conversation around microelectronics supply chains we are having right now. Exploring a range of diverse, complimentary technical solutions and policy options can help support real, cogent opportunities to ensure secure, resilient PNT of the future.”


Mr. Smith said “Our security, safety, and commerce all rely on GPS, but our nation is highly vulnerable to loss or manipulation of this very weak signal.  The good news is that we have the technologies and a newly-emerged industry that can provide diverse, resilient back-ups for GPS.”  He continued, “The bad news is that, because these back-ups (unlike GPS) come with a cost to users, they are unlikely to adopt GPS back-ups — unless the government incentives adoption.  How to do this cost-effectively and without tilting the industry playing field will be the critical challenge for government policy-makers.”


“Today’s release of this critically important backgrounder on PNT issues, including GPS, highlights a critical national security capability for the United States and our allies and identifies key issues to watch in this area,” said Jamil N. Jaffer, Founder and Executive Director of the National Security Institute at GMU’s Antonin Scalia Law School. “Bryan Smith and Lori Gordon’s succinct analysis of the key issues at stake here focuses policy maker attention on a matter that has simply taken too long to address, and therefore provides an important addition to the work in this space,” said Jaffer.


The paper is available here.

Lori Gordon’s bio can be found here.

Bryan Smith’s bio can be found here.


About the Technology, Innovation, and American National Security: Preserving U.S. Leadership in a New Decade
This project will explore what the U.S. should do to ensure its global economic and political leadership, including how the U.S. government and private sector might work together to respond to national security threats and economic competition while promoting innovation.

We expect papers associated with this project to drive a serious debate on technology and national security, informed by the work of NSI’s authors and experts providing key insights and actionable recommendations.


About NSI 2020
NSI 2020 is a year-long project that will focus on two of America’s most pressing national security challenges: the rise of China and preserving U.S. technology innovation leadership.   NSI 2020 will feature a series of events, papers, and policy engagements centered on these two imperative challenges over the next year.


About the National Security Institute
The National Security Institute serves as a platform for research, teaching, scholarship, and policy development that incorporates a realistic assessment of the threats facing the United States and its allies, as well as an appreciation of the legal and practical challenges facing U.S. intelligence, defense, law enforcement, homeland security, and cybersecurity communities.  NSI draws on the experience of its fellows, as well as its highly distinguished advisory board and faculty, to produce timely research and policy materials that deliver insightful analysis and actionable recommendations to senior policymakers in the White House and key departments and agencies, as well as those on Capitol Hill.


About George Mason
George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls more than 33,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states.  Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity, and commitment to accessibility.


About the Scalia Law School
The Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University is defined by three words: Learn. Challenge. Lead. Students receive an outstanding legal education (Learn), are taught to critically evaluate prevailing orthodoxy and pursue new ideas (Challenge), and, ultimately, are well prepared to distinguish themselves in their chosen fields (Lead).  It has been one of America’s top-ranked law schools for the last fifteen years.