The GPS Information and Policy Organizational Structure

Irene Gonin and George Wiggers

U. S. Department of Transportation, Radionavigation and Positioning Staff

Kenneth Lamm

The MITRE Corporation


The United States operates the Navstar Global Positioning System (GPS). The GPS is a satellite-based system designed and developed within the Department of Defense (DOD) that provides a twenty-four hour, global user position and velocity determination capability relative to an earth-centered, earth-fixed coordinate system. GPS also provides a twenty-four hour global time determination capability. To provide these capabilities, DOD has placed in orbit 24 operational satellites and installed a worldwide ground control network that is operated by the US Space Command in Colorado Springs. Users obtain position, velocity and time information with special radio receivers with integrated computational components.

With this function comes many responsibilities. To help facilitate policy and efficient usage of GPS for both military and civilian applications, the Joint DOD and Department of Transportation (DOT) GPS Executive Board was formed in 1994. The purpose of this Executive Board is to resolve conflicts arising from joint civil and military use of GPS.

This paper describes the present organizational structure and function of the various committees, working groups and subcommittees that have been organized to help manage GPS. The paper also describes international organizations concerned with the provision of satellite navigation services because of their interaction with the U.S. GPS management structure.

The focus of these organizations are to assure that the system provides maximum benefits to civil users while maintaining the military utility of GPS for the U.S. and its allies. The benefits of GPS also include the creation of new manufacturing and service industries evolving from this technology.


Full Operational Capability (FOC) was announced for GPS by DOD on April 27, 1995. With this announcement, a new era in joint management of the GPS system has begun. No longer is the system in a test or development phase; GPS is now fully operational.

It has taken GPS over 20 years to go from concept to the reality that a truly new navigation and positioning utility has been created for the world. For less than five hundred dollars, anyone, anywhere in the world, can determine his or her location in three dimensions to within 100 meters. With this tremendous world resource, comes much responsibility. The need for close cooperation and exchange of information between military, federal, civilian and international groups is very important to the future of the GPS system.

By the early 1990's DOD had developed an organizational structure to support the implementation of GPS. With the increased usage of GPS in the federal, civilian and international communities, DOD and DOT realized the need for closer cooperation between the departments. As a result, a Joint DOD/DOT Task Force on GPS was created and a report to the Secretaries of Defense and Transportation was completed in December 1993. As part of the report, a survey of Federal users was conducted. Table 1 lists the agencies that responded, YES, to using GPS. Table 2 list agencies that responded, NO, to using GPS.

One of the recommendations from the Joint Task Force on GPS, was to create a GPS Executive Board, composed of, an Assistant Secretary from both the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Transportation (DOT). The purpose of this Executive Board would be to resolve conflicts arising from joint civil and military use of GPS. Another recommendation was the assignment of radionavigation policy and planning responsibilities to a DOT Assistant Secretary and the establishment of a DOT Positioning and Navigation (Pos/Nav) Executive Committee within DOT to mirror a similar organization within DOD. Descriptions of the organizational components that presently support this newly formed GPS Executive Board are described in the remainder of this report.

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