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Won’t Get Fooled Again

How’s That Hopey-Changey Stuff Working Out For Ya?

Glen Gibbons
How about these New Year’s resolutions: admit GPS is critical infrastructure, support multi-GNSS monitoring, ensure location privacy for citizens, and figure out a real backup for PNT.

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How many times, as some once-promising politician stumbles up against his pull date, have we heard that irreverent anthem of The Who invoked?

Thousands? Millions?

Yes, back in the wreckage of the second George Bush’s second term, Barack Obama looked pretty good by comparison. Even then, though, raising the banner of “Hope” before the eyes of a desperate nation was a risky thing to do.

But now — much as I hate it — I’d have to answer Sarah Palin’s snide query, “How’s That Hopey-Changey Stuff Working Out For Ya?’’ Not so well, Mrs. Palin, really not so well.

And back in 2009, Obama’s resistance to being separated from his Blackberry by security-minded officials seemed amusing — a generational indication that smartphones might be competing for the affections of Americans toward their automobiles. Instead, it actually foreshadowed U.S. eavesdropping on the phones of world leaders.

What seemed wonkish but well-informed inclination toward new technology turned out to be mere fancy for the hipness of social media. Hence, the near-catastrophe of LightSquared driven by an impulsive search for 500 megahertz of RF spectrum to reallocate as wireless broadband.

No, once in the White House, the execution of plans fell far short of the rhetoric. Thus, the early promise to close our gulag for terrorists at Guantanamo — filled with innocent and guilty alike — appears no more likely to happen in 2014 than in 2009.

Any more than Obama’s teaching courses in constitutional law seems to have engendered a respect for the protections of the U.S. Constitution.

Or that the good intentions of universal health insurance coverage could survive its poor design and disastrous rollout. “Let it be written, let it be done,” did not work any better for the president’s health care mandate than the same mantra did for Yul Brynner as Pharaoh in “The Ten Commandments.”

What would I like to see this administration achieve in the way of space-based positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) before last call at the polls in 2016? Well, for a starter, here’s a short list:

  • Admit that the Global Positioning System — or more broadly, PNT — really is a part of the national critical infrastructure that deserves at least as much consideration and protection as the other 16 sectors identified in the National Infrastructure Protection Plan. After all, GPS has a very tangible, physical presence in its satellites and ground control segment.
  • Support an international GNSS monitoring and assessment service that would benefit all system providers and users. Isn’t that a natural corollary to the administration’s 2010 amendment to National Space Policy authorizing use of foreign GNSS services to strengthen GPS?
  • Acknowledge that Americans’ personal location should be considered private unless willingly made public by individuals, granting it the Fourth Amendment protections envisioned in the Supreme Court’s Katz v. United States decision. And enforce those protections against wholesale National Security Agency surveillance as well as the FBI and local police. And while we’re at it, let’s admit that Edward Snowden is closer to being a patriot in the tradition of Daniel Ellsberg with his Pentagon Papers than the traitorous spy that embarrassed officials are trying to portray him as.
  • Get the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) initiative off the ground and into the air. Is it possible that we could learn from the experience of many other nations, including those in Europe, that are well ahead of the United States in this area. This may seem at odds with the previous suggestion, but with adequate legal guidelines personal privacy can remain secure while the civil benefits of UAS are revealed. The FAA’s responsibility for ensuring aviation safety are not incompatible with advancing the UAS project vigorously.
  • Actually design and approve plans for — if not the completion of — a system to detect and mitigate GNSS interference as well as ensure a backup for GPS. More than nine years after a presidential directive to do so, we should either invest the resources and leadership to get it done or admit that it’s beyond our abilities.

Copyright © 2017 Gibbons Media & Research LLC, all rights reserved.

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