WASHINGTON — The outgoing Trump administration issued a new policy memo outlining the need to continue providing a worldwide GPS signal while preventing adversaries from using it against the U.S.

In its final weeks in office, the administration released a number of policy documents clarifying its approach to space, including a new National Space Policy released in December.

Space Policy Directive-7, released Jan. 15, is the first update to the government’s space-based PNT policy in 16 years. As with past administration statements and executive orders, the policy emphasizes the importance of the 31-satellite GPS constellation as not only a critical enabler of military systems, but also as a driver of the nation’s economy.

Accordingly, the policy recommits the government to providing the GPS signal free worldwide, while preventing its use by adversaries for hostile activities. The policy calls for improvement to the nation’s navigational warfare capabilities to deny hostile use of the system.

It also calls for the development of more robust GPS signals that are less susceptible to spoofing or degrading by adversaries. As nations like China, Russia and Iran invest in new tools to block the signal, the U.S. military wants to ensure its soldier and weapons systems know their own location at all times. The navigation and timing data provided by GPS are key to enabling coordination between various American weapon systems.

“GPS remains critical to United States national security. Its applications are integrated into virtually every facet of United States military operations,” reads the policy. “The widespread and growing dependence on GPS by military, civil, and commercial applications, systems, and infrastructure make the performance of many of these systems inherently vulnerable if disruption or manipulation of GPS signals were to occur.”

To help make GPS more robust, the administration wants to improve GPS cybersecurity and invest in domestic capabilities to detect and mitigate GPS interference.

While much of the policy memo focuses on improving GPS, it also restates the administration’s concern of over reliance on the system for PNT data, especially in regard to critical infrastructure. Similar to an executive order issued in February 2020, the administration’s policy expresses the need to adopt multiple sources of PNT data that can supplement or replace GPS if needed. To that end, the administration directs the government to engage with international satellite-based PNT providers and ensure they are compatible with GPS and GPS-related systems.

Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.

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