BOX 6.1

Informal analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the geodetic infrastructure, as perceived by U.S. agencies



  • Collaborative initiatives involving multiple agencies and countries.

  • Open and transparent data collection, processing, and distribution.

  • Ongoing progress and improved performance over multiple decades.

  • Major technological advances.

  • Collection of accurate global position, satellite orbit, altimetry, and gravity data sets to support research on changes in the Earth system.

  • Support of a broad range of groundbreaking societal applications.

  • Lack of clear chain of responsibility and authority for maintenance and development of the nation’s geodetic infrastructure.

  • Degradation and loss of geodetic stations and satellites.

  • Uneven geographic distribution and inadequate co-location of geodetic techniques.

  • Lack of satellite data continuity, especially for GRACE and IceSAT missions.

  • Systematic technique errors, requiring improvements in technology.

  • Inaccessibility of geodetic concepts and terminology.



  • Continued scientific and technological advancement.

  • Evolution toward geodetic imaging and real-time applications.

  • Efficient data transfer from remote stations to central data processing centers, allowing for shorter time intervals and near-real-time solutions.

  • Lack of general awareness and understanding of contributions of geodesy.

  • Lack of sustainable, long-term funding due to competing priorities and structure of the federal budget process.

  • Perception that current geodetic infrastructure is precise enough.

  • Retiring workforce and lack of adequate training for the next generation of geodesists.

Based on its review of prior studies and the scientific literature as well as interviews with members of stakeholder communities, the committee developed a set of recommendations for the maintenance and long-term sustainability of the geodetic infrastructure servicing the full range of existing and future users.1 These recommendations touch on the national and global fundamental station network,2 high-precision, real-time GNSS/GPS networks, international collaboration and cooperation, education of the geodetic science workforce, and long-term support of federal geodetic services. These specific recommendations, discussed in the rest of this chapter, all derive from the committee’s core recommendation:

Recommendation: The United States, to maintain leadership in industry and science, and as a matter of national security, should invest in maintaining and improving the geodetic infrastructure through upgrades in network design and construction, modernization of current observing systems, deployment of improved multi-technique observing capabilities, and funding opportunities for research, analysis, and education in global geodesy.


The committee developed no specific recommendation for the proposed GRAV-D project to define a gravity-based vertical datum for the United States, since that proposal is already official policy for NGS and is included in its 10-year plan. However, the committee endorses this concept and notes that it will be an important improvement to the existing national geodetic infrastructure.


A fundamental station includes VLBI and SLR, plus other geodetic systems. See Glossary for full description.

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