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eLoran Appears Doomed Despite Possible GPS Backup Role

Loran tower.jpgTop tower- Starkey Loran Research Photos 2001
October 13, 2009

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Enhanced Loran (eLoran), the proposed backup to GPS that has made a career out of surviving efforts to eliminate its Loran-C foundation, now appears to be only two signatures away from extinction — and both appear likely.

A House-Senate conference committee version of the fiscal year 2010 (FY10) appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) approved October 7 allows for termination of the Loran-C signal on January 4, 2010. The program would shut down if the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard (Adm. Thad Allen) certified that it is not needed for navigation and the secretary of DHS (Janet Napolitano) affirms that the system is not needed as a backup for GPS.

The Coast Guard has previously declared that Loran is not needed for navigation and Napolitano, appointed by President Obama, would seem an unlikely advocate for a program that the president has singled out for elimination.

In remarks earlier this year, Allen made a distinction between operating LORAN and a backup to GPS.
“While one could be the other, it doesn't necessarily have to be,” he
said. “The policy decision was taken to terminate LORAN-C.
Negotiations, discussions, and outreach to stakeholders will continue
for a requirement for a backup for GPS. Should that backup become
eLORAN, that is something that will be addressed in the future.

The action came despite  the 2006 recommendation of an Independent Assessment Team (IAT) that eLoran could serve as a backup for GPS, a remedy sought in the 2004 National Security Decision Directive for space-based positioning, navigation, and timing issued by then-President Bush.

In the $42.77-billion DHS budget — a 6.6 percent ($2.64 billion) increase from FY09, the $36 million a year in Loran savings seemed to draw a disproportionate amount of attention from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which has sought to end the program for several years.

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