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There are currently over two billion GPS users in the US. Yet the reliance on GPS services is threatened more and more by the risk of disruption to critical infrastructure. 

Positioning, navigation timing (PNT) capabilities are crucial both to national and economic security and the traveling public, and has become an integral part of civilian and military applications. PNT data provides a reference to calculate longitude, latitude, altitude, or transmission of time or frequency data. The data is conveyed by GPS technology – users receive signals from satellites placed into orbit by the US Department of Defense, which made the technology available worldwide, through a constellation of about 31 satellites that orbit the Earth.

Now, the US wants to actively mitigate the risks of disruption to critical infrastructure that rely on PNT services. On February 12, US President Trump signed an executive order that calls for a government-wide effort to improve the security and resilience of services that depend on the Global Positioning System for positioning, navigation and timing.

Examples of critical capabilities include “trucks with electronic logging devices to make sure that drivers do not drive past when they are tired,“ as a Pentagon spokesman told “We have general aviation that needs to work in the fog. We have shipping. We have timing signals of traffic lights. We have intelligent transportation systems. We now have electronic tolling. We have precision agriculture,” he said. 

The executive order “serves to highlight how important this utility has become to the functioning of the nation’s critical infrastructure,” according to a White House official.

The document directs the executive branch departments and agencies to adopt guidelines for how to manage the risk of disruption to critical infrastructure that rely on GPS services.

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) — the agency that develops cybersecurity standards for different industries — will be in charge of developing services’ cybersecurity guidance.

To help reduce the dependence on GPS for timing services, NIST is offering a timing service for companies, utilities, or organizations that wish to receive and disseminate U.S. civilian standard time using commercial telecommunications networks.