From the Crows' Nest

The U.S. relies highly on GPS, navigation timing systems, and satellites. And recently, GPS was labeled as a single point of failure for America by the Director of Resilience on the National Security Council. To discuss the impacts of this, Ken Miller talks with Dana Goward about the significance of GPS today and the potential risks posed by interference and spoofing.

As President of the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation and a member of the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Advisory Board, Dana provides invaluable insight into the world of GPS technology and its vulnerabilities. Ken and Dana also discuss how GPS jamming is unfolding in global conflicts and how the U.S. can better protect critical infrastructure from attacks on GPS signals.

To learn more about today’s topics or to stay updated on EMSO and EW developments, visit our homepage

Creators & Guests

Ken Miller
AOC Director of Advocacy & Outreach, Host of @AOCrows From the Crows' Nest Podcast
Laura Krebs
Reese Clutter

What is From the Crows' Nest?

This podcast features interviews, analysis, and discussions covering leading issues of the day related to electromagnetic spectrum operations (EMSO). Topics include current events and news worldwide, US Congress and the annual defense budget, and military news from the US and allied countries. We also bring you closer to Association of Old Crow events and provide a forum to dive deeper into policy issues impacting our community.

Ken Miller (00:10):
Welcome to From the Crows' Nest, a podcast on electromagnetic spectrum operations or EMSO. I'm your host, Ken Miller, director of advocacy and outreach for the Association of Old Crows. You can follow me on Twitter at FTCNHost. Thanks for listening.
In this episode of From the Crows' Nest, I am joined by Dana Goward, he is president of the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation. We sit down and discuss GPS spoofing, where it's been, where it's going and what it means in the context of current events, especially over in Ukraine. Before I get to him, I have a couple things I just want to get to first.
First off, I want to thank my listeners. Last week, I mentioned a new podcast by Dr. Alix Valenti called D-Fence and, after my call to check it out, she saw a spike in US listenership. So, for those of you who did this, thank you very much. We'll hopefully find an opportunity to join forces here in the near future or to collaborate in some way through this podcast, other initiatives. I'm always looking for new ways to push the resources envelope for our community. So, this is all good and fun and I greatly appreciate everyone who tuned into her podcast.
The next thing I want to briefly mention is that, during the intro, I mentioned you can follow me on Twitter at FTCNHost. Now, admittedly, I am terrible at social media so trying to maintain a Twitter account and use it to keep in touch with my listeners has been a challenge, haven't figured out all the secrets yet and so it's not a natural platform for me to use. However, I'm going to conquer this and so here's what I'm hoping that my listeners here will do. Please go to Twitter, follow me, share your thoughts, topics, what you want me to cover on the show, ask questions. You can post your message on Twitter, you can direct message me and, starting this week, I'm going to try to spend more time on that platform to try to engage listeners one-on-one by, again, messaging, tweeting, forwarding tweets and so forth.
But apologies for the rather spotty Twitter engagement up until this time but I do want to put out that charge to the listeners to figure out how to use this platform. One of the things that we're going to do in the near future here, hopefully by AOC Europe, which I'll be in attendance for in a couple months, is to use Twitter spaces to have livestreaming audio conversations as well. So, there's a lot going on the Twitter platform right now and really hope that you can join me on that and help get that squared away.
And finally, the big news of the past couple weeks, the president's budget was finally sent to Capitol Hill last week. We now get to sit back and watch the scintillating defense budget process unfold in Congress and, in all seriousness so, it is an important milestone for Congress and our community as a lot of our programs and priorities will get funding attached and discussed throughout in hearings within Congress. There's too much to go into here on the podcast at this time. We will be covering pieces of this throughout future episodes but, overall, the president's budget includes $1.7 trillion, it represents a 4.8% increase over what was appropriated in FY 2023.
For defense spending, the president's budget request comes into at 886.3 billion, 842 billion of that is dedicated directly to the Department of Defense, the rest goes to other federal agencies that have defense related missions. It's important to note that, when you're looking at what is in the defense budget, the two critical priorities of DOD is it recognizes China as a key strategic competitor and it labels Russia as an acute threat to US and its allies. And so, you can see how those two designations affect overall funding for DOD. Interestingly enough, it also contains the largest procurement and research and development budget ever at a combined 315 billion and, for space and space-based systems, it's also the largest ever at 33.3 billion.
So, there's a lot of interesting stuff in the budget that we're currently going over on critical technologies, 5G, microelectronics, traditional EW programs of record. Again, instead of covering it all here in the podcast, after I'm done recording, I'm going to sit down and write an article on this and we'll put that out on AOC website, we'll also put it in our weekly eCrow newsletter and post it on Jet Online so you can take a look at that and we'll go into more detail and a little bit easier to convey all the pieces that way.
So, with that, I'd like to get to my interview with Dana Goward. Dana, it's great to have you here From the Crows' Nest, thanks for joining me.
Dana Goward (04:41):
It's a real pleasure.
Ken Miller (04:42):
So, we first met, I guess, a few weeks ago, I had the honor of moderating one of AOC's webinars that we do on a regular basis and this was the topic of the talk and you were the gracious presenter and I really enjoyed being able to engage on that platform. And if you're an AOC member listening to this, you can always go to those archives and download that presentation as well but, for many of our listeners, we have a different audience. Now, I wanted to have you on From the Crows' Nest here to talk about the same issue because I felt it was particularly relevant for today's conversations about national security. Thanks for taking some extra time to join us here on this and looking forward to talking with you.
Dana Goward (05:22):
It's one of my favorite topics, so glad to be here.
Ken Miller (05:25):
Just to get started, help our listeners get a little bit more familiar with who you are and the foundation that you run. Could you tell us a little bit about that and what space do you occupy in the national conversation when we talk about the GPS issues and navigation?
Dana Goward (05:40):
Well, so, Ken, the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation is actually a 501(c)(3) public benefit scientific and educational charity. So, what that means is that we're not an industry association, we've specifically chose a charity status so we could provide as much unbiased information about what needs to be done to protect GPS satellite signals and users as possible. In addition to being the president of the foundation, I am also a member of the president's national space-based Position Navigation and Timing Advisory Board and I've been a senior advisor to Space Command on their Purposeful Interference Response Team.
So, we occupy a relatively unique niche in the national conversation, as you say, because we blog about this, we talk to folks like the Association of Old Crows about the challenges and the solutions that are recently well acknowledged but have yet to be put in place.
Ken Miller (06:39):
One of the things we talk about all the time here is just how ubiquitous satellite communications networks and timing are, capabilities are across every aspect of our life. It touches national security, it touches commerce, transpacific, transatlantic, transportation, you name it and we rely on the capabilities of satellite communications, GPS navigation, timing, all those and they all have to work properly. Could you talk a little bit about how we got to this point in terms of just thinking about this almost over-reliance, not in a negative way, but just extreme reliance on GPS and navigation timing systems and satellites?
Dana Goward (07:22):
Sure. And I would say that overreliance on anything is a little bit of a negative so it is something we have to guard against. So, GPS started out, in the words of its chief architect, Brad Parkinson, as an effort to put five bombs in the same hole. Definitely a military capability but, very quickly, it became a civilian utility as well and one could argue it's probably the largest, most silent and widely adopted utility around the planet. People who don't even have electrical power will use GPS to synchronize their cell phones and to find their way, their mobile devices and that sort of thing.
So, most folks think of it as a navigation capability. You think about your cell phone, you think about Waze or Google Maps and, yes, absolutely it's essential to every method and mode of transportation. We have built our society, transportation wise, around freely available GPS signals that are highly accurate. We've also built our society much less visibly around the highly precise free timing signals that GPS offers. They allow us to synchronize cell phone networks, they allow us to synchronize all kinds of networks, actually, machine systems, timestamp, financial systems, the list just goes on and on.
And if GPS signals were not available, it's not just transportation that would suffer but things like the electrical grid uses GPS signals in order to synchronize the transmissions and different powered grids where they meet, uses it for forensics and to determine different load bearings and in practical things like billing, as do most industries. So, it's the kind of dependency that has caused the director of resiliency on the National Security Council to call GPS a single point of failure for America. And it really is because, unlike other countries, we do not have a widely available and adoptable alternative to GPS.
There are alternatives, there are some systems that are being used but they're not widely adopted and the threat of a GPS outage is an existential, near existential threat, anyway, for the United States.
Ken Miller (09:34):
But would you say that our dependency on GPS timing, those capabilities outpaced our willingness to recognize the vulnerabilities of those systems? There's so much opportunity that we can do X, Y and Z with this that we just assumed that it would be secure.
Dana Goward (09:54):
Well, I don't know if people assumed it would be secure but they certainly have assumed that ... Well, I suppose, unconsciously, they've assumed that because there are so many systems where engineers and technologists said, "Ah, here's GPS, it's free, it's highly precise, nothing really bad has happened yet, we'll use it." And they probably in the back of their mind have thought, "Well, if something goes wrong, it's not my fault. This is a government system so I'll use it and I don't really have any responsibility if things go south." Not everyone's done that, of course, but it's been so widely adopted and tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of applications, sometimes when it's not needed, where there are better alternatives available but it's highly precise, it's free, it's very, very inexpensive to buy a chip to receive GPS signals so folks have used it.
And the challenges, of course, as you say, is it's not secure, it's not authenticated, it's very easy to disrupt or imitate and it often is. 90% of those disruptions are unintentional, just the stray radio frequency leakage from one thing or another. But the GPS signal is so, so very faint that it's very easy to be interfered with, either in terms of being denied or, more insidiously, just wandering off someplace where it has no reason to be. That often happens with random interference, especially if you're on the fringes of the interference area rather than the receiver just stopping working, it'll wander off and give you hazardously misleading information.
Ken Miller (11:33):
That's one of the things that's really interesting. When you were giving your webinar presentation and you were talking about this very topic of all the different ways that GPS could be interfered with and so forth, it's definitely increased as a target for nefarious purposes over the recent years. And when we talk about targets and we talk about vulnerabilities and intentions of adversaries, it's always a matter of what is the cost to execute a plan, how can it be traced back to an adversary, obviously, people want to do things in the shadows, can you recognize an effect that it has and that's always something that we talk about with electronic warfare. Did this measurable effect and the repetition, can you do it over and over again?
And it feels like a tax on GPS and timing navigation systems check all those boxes. It can be low cost, it can go untraceable, you can recognize an effect even if it's mild or very minimal and you can repeat it over and over again because you can't actually figure out what's going on because it's so subtle. So, talk about that idea of it's become a target because it checks all those boxes. Is that an accurate way of looking at it?
Dana Goward (12:45):
Oh, absolutely. So, just talking about hostile attacks as opposed to natural or accidental, somebody can buy something off the internet for 20 bucks or so that will defeat GPS reception within 100 meters of themselves and there's really no way that authorities have to counter that thing other than trying to police imports and that sort of thing. There's no monitoring system that would detect somebody buying and/or using that sort of thing. And of course, if you want to go more than 20 bucks, you get more sophisticated, you can get into the impersonation and spoofing and deliberately giving people hazardously misleading information.
In fact, the government of Mexico says that GPS disruption devices are a part of 80% of the cargo thefts in Mexico so they have very stringent laws against purchasing and using these devices. As an example of how difficult this thing is to detect, in October of last year, the Dallas Fort Worth airport and about 40 miles around it had a GPS disruption event that lasted for 24 hours, 24 hours. Air traffic was impacted, they had to use different procedures, land on different runways, that sort of thing. The impact on air traffic lasted for another 20 hours, so 44 hours total, which is bad enough in and of itself.
But to me, the worst thing is that the government never found out where it was coming from, it just turned itself off. And despite all of the forensics and the abilities and capabilities the government has, they still don't know where it came from and that was a powerful signal. Had a similar incident in January of last year at Denver and it took the government 33 hours to identify the signal and get it shut down. It impacted a lot more than just aviation in that particular instance as well.
Ken Miller (14:47):
And it seems like it also has, potentially, an extreme psychological impact too. If just a consumer or an average person starts to question or have doubt, you don't have trust of that capability that can spread quickly into a lot of different areas of life. So, how do you handle the psychological impact of the lack of trust in these systems, whether it's real or perceived, based on the increase in incidents?
Dana Goward (15:16):
Right. Well, so we haven't seen a whole lot of lack of trust yet. We like to say the challenge with this issue is a little Suzy hasn't died yet. Nobody crashed at Denver or in Dallas, we had a near loss of a passenger craft in Sun Valley in 2019 but they didn't crash. So, it was a scare but it wasn't a big enough scare for the federal authorities to be more proactive in this thing. So, we don't have a lack of trust which is unfortunate because, as you say, it lulls folks into that sense of confidence and they don't take the precautions.
And if they see something that's wrong with their device, they say, "Well, what did I do wrong?" in terms of user error. They don't tend to think, "Well, somebody's messing with the signal or there's something wrong with satellite or there's something wrong with my device." Because it works a lot which provides a fertile ground for malicious folks, it allows them to use it to aid in cargo thefts, for example, and all kinds of things that we don't know about. I have seen reports from the United States about the theft of cargo, an FBI advisory was made public several years back but there's not a lot of that open conversation in our country.
So, yeah, it's a real challenge to get folks to recognize it on an individual basis and to be skeptical of themselves. And it's a real challenge with policymakers to get them to realize that we have this single point of failure and it's not one that's shared by other countries.
Ken Miller (16:49):
So, I want to step back a little bit now and talk about how things work. And it's going to be hard to maybe do over podcast where it's only audio, could you talk about how things work? You mentioned earlier, GPS signal is very weak. What is going on? From a technical perspective, on both sides of the equation, and help the listeners understand, when we talk about GPS jamming, what does that mean?
Dana Goward (17:16):
GPS satellites are over the earth about 12,500 miles. They're powered by solar panels and they transmit very, very faint signals, that sets intentional so they don't interfere with each other. And the signals that they transmit are essentially time signals because the satellites are a suite of atomic clocks connected to a radio. So, those satellites send a time signal and your receiver receives the signal from four or more satellites. And because all of the time signals are sent at exact same moment, because they're different distances from your receiver, they will arrive at your receiver at slightly different times. And so, your receiver measures those differences in time and says I know these were all sent at the same time, I know where the satellites were so I must be here in three dimensions.
Because it's based all on a time signal, that is why it's a really, really good source for timing and synchronization across all these other industries. Now, the signal, the GPS satellites make less noise in the radio frequency spectrum than the sun and the stars do when they burn and twinkle. So, your receiver has to look down in the noise floor to winkle out the coded signals and figure out the different [inaudible 00:18:35] between them and do all the complicated math but it does that most of the time. But because it's such a weak signal that's way down the noise floor, that's why it's really easy to disrupt accidentally or on purpose.
Now, we have wanted, from the beginning, to have GPS adopted by as many people as possible for as many reasons as possible, many applications and it's been a huge success. It has spawned so many new applications, it spawned entire new industries. Think about Waze and think about Uber and Lyft and delivery companies that no longer need half the number of trucks and drivers because it can do things more efficiently. So, we've wanted it to be adopted for so many new applications and we've wanted to make it America's gift to the world, which we did, and we did that by making the signal specification available to everybody so that all the engineers could incorporate all that information into their receivers and applications.
And as a result, all of these new industries like Uber and Lyft and hyperefficient delivery services and such came into be. It has generated so much efficiency and so much increase in productivity, it's hard to imagine. It's in the trillions of dollars a year, undoubtedly. But because we made the signal specification public knowledge so everybody could use it and incorporate it, that also means that the bad guys know exactly what it looks like. And so, it's very easy for them, especially now in the world of software defined radios, to purchase a device off the internet specifically designed to imitate the GPS signals and to transmit false GPS signals that will lure an unwary and unsophisticated receiver especially off of where it should be and down the road that they want.
It used to be, back in the mid-20 teens, that this was something that you would have to do as a reasonably sophisticated hacker but now you can pretty much buy them ready-made and the level of sophistication and the expense has gone down dramatically. I've also seen papers where folks have shown how, in addition to sending the false GPS signals, you can also send a false map so that the map that the individual is looking with looks like what they're seeing outside. And so, as they follow the false GPS signal, they're not alerted by the fact that what they're seeing outside their windscreen is that much different from what they see in the map.
So, to a certain degree, it's a bit like the internet, we thought it would be wonderful, made it available to everybody but, of course, whenever there's something nice, there's going to be those folks in the world that are going to put it to bad use and we certainly have seen that with GPS.
Ken Miller (21:22):
Now, with targeting, when we talk about conflicts around the world and targeting, particularly with lethal weapons, there's a lot of efforts to use shields for those weapon systems to make it difficult to target them. We've seen where maybe it's next to a hospital or something and we have to make sure that the targeting is precise because, 30 feet off, 100 feet off, could be devastating. How does a system affect the precise targeting of a missile system in terms of to protect itself?
Dana Goward (21:58):
So, that's a really good question, there are a number of layers to that. So, first of all, we're going to assume that these are American weapons and we're not intending to-
Ken Miller (22:06):
Right, yeah.
Dana Goward (22:07):
... hit civil infrastructure and hospitals as opposed to some other folks who really don't care or maybe would want to target them. So, if you have a guided ammunition or drone or something like that, there are things you can do to increase the resilience to jamming or interference. There's software and hardware. Just to give a really quick open example, most jamming comes from the ground so, if you ensure your antenna is only looking at the sky, then that's a pretty good first step. And there are other things you can do, it's a whole nother podcast or two to talk about those things. So, there are things you can do for your devices.
Now, if the adversary is intent on denying signals and they have enough power and, as we discussed, it doesn't really take enough power, much power, you can just deny the signals rather than worrying about where your signal is coming from or whether or not you're going to be able to spoof them or something. And then if you're the system that's being denied, there are other things you can do in order to continue the package on its way, they will be much less precise. So, if you have an inertial system on board, the inertial system is going to be good for probably 45 seconds or so and then the device will either follow the inertial system or it'll just continue on whatever trajectory it was on and depends on the system.
So, there are things that you can do in that vein. Now, if you are being targeted by GPS or satellite navigation guided weapons, there are things you can do to protect yourself. For example, in the Ukrainian conflict, there is a website called that shows indications of GPS interference around the globe and it does that by interpreting reports from airplanes that are going by. So, we don't see a lot over the Ukraine because not a lot of commercial airplanes are going over the Ukraine in these days. However, it's really interesting that, when Ukraine started to attack Russian airfields hundreds of miles inside of Russia with drones, we saw the pattern of GPS jamming and spoofing inside of Russia shift dramatically.
We've always seen a lot of jamming and spoofing in Moscow and other areas and around some air bases because they don't want drones attacking their senior leaders and other infrastructure. But after the Ukrainian drone attacks on the air bases where, presumably, they were being hit from by Russian aircraft, several days afterwards, we saw that there was much more spoofing around the air bases that had been attacked than there had been previously. So, it can be used as a defensive measure as well as an offensive measure.
Ken Miller (25:03):
Now, when you gave your presentation to the AOC webinar series, you do this on a yearly basis, give a yearly report of what's going on. Can you give us a report? A little bit about what has the past year looked like, what are some of the things that really caught your attention over the past year or so on this topic? And then I do want to talk a little bit about what we're seeing today in Ukraine and other hot spots around the world.
Dana Goward (25:33):
Sure. Well, over the last 12 months, we've seen a lot more reporting of interference with GPS. A lot of it's associated with the conflict in Ukraine but a lot's not. We just posted something the other day about how interference with GPS in Northern Norway is much worse than it has been in a long time. We first started seeing it in 2017 but it's been somewhat of a steady increase. It's coming from Russia, by the way, probably no surprise there but they're having a real problem with aviation and first responder systems in Northern Norway because hardly a day goes by where they don't have some part of the day where GPS is denied or interfered with.
Ken Miller (26:18):
Is there any reason why Northern Norway is experiencing this versus other places? I know that there's a major strategic importance to some of the passageways, is that why?
Dana Goward (26:30):
Yeah, it's hard to say for sure. Certainly based on open source reports, there is a sense and we have seen the Russians say that they routinely interfere with GPS to defeat US cruise missiles. Not sure that they really have a reason to be concerned about US cruise missiles coming through that particular area at the time. It may well be that they're just concerned about asserting their dominance in Scandinavia or they're increasing their military exercises because they're for deployed in the Ukraine more. It's hard to say. I like to say I shouldn't speculate but I do. But everybody wonders what the heck is going ... Why would you go through this effort?
One interesting thing about that effort is that most GPS interferences also gets the other global navigation satellite systems. So, Russia's GLONASS, Europe's Galileo and China's BeiDou, all of those are GPS-like systems we call GNSS or global navigation satellite systems. They all operate in pretty much the same frequency band so it's less expensive and it's easier to get a jammer that just gets all of them because you don't have to be really as precise. But we have seen in Northern Norway, upon occasion, that the jamming just targets GPS and leaves the Russian's GLONASS system alone which is something that requires a reasonable degree of sophistication.
Again, that's an interesting bit and it certainly confirms that it's a military type thing and not something accidental.
Ken Miller (28:08):
Now, you said that you've seen an increase, not just this past year, but in recent years, obviously, across the board and you mentioned earlier that a lot of these are unintentional. Does that make it hard? And then, obviously, some are intentional but not necessarily nefarious or anything that's meant to bring down a grid or anything. Does the quantity of the unintentional make it difficult to figure out what is intentional and then what is nefarious? Is it just such a problem that you are guessing a lot as you start to gather this data?
Dana Goward (28:44):
That's a really good question. The European Union Today study called Strike Three several years ago, they went out and sampled for about a year and a half signals in that frequency band that could possibly interfere with GPS and Galileo and other systems. And they found that 90% of the signals were unintentional and they did that by analyzing the signal structure and quality. They also interestingly found that there were about 300 families of jammers that were out there in use on the continent at the time which is really interesting. So, all of that to say it is possible to look at the signals and be able to differentiate from probably accidental to definitely malicious and that sort of thing.
The challenge we have, especially here in the United States and probably now in Europe, is that nobody seems to be paying attention, nobody's interested in the issue. We haven't had a Strike Three-like project in the United States to assess the level of the challenge. So, until we do, it's hard to say how hard it will be on a regular basis to figure out which is which. And to a certain degree, as far as effects, it might be interesting information but, if somebody's disrupted, it doesn't really matter whether it's accidental or malicious. For them, at the moment, they're just disrupted, whatever they want to do isn't working.
It's important in the long term, I'm sure, to get the bad guys under control but we're well a long way from that.
Ken Miller (30:17):
So, in terms of Ukraine, you mentioned, obviously, a lot of the data that you've collected has some degree of relevance to what's going on in Ukraine, the conflict's been going on a little bit over a year now. Can you talk a little bit about those types of operations and the countermeasures that are taking place in that conflict?
Dana Goward (30:36):
Sure. I published an article a while back to the effect of why isn't Russia jamming as much in the Ukraine as we might expect. We certainly know that they are jamming in Ukraine, they're certainly doing it before the war. They were regularly defeating organization of European states monitoring of the peace accord that had been brokered after Russia took the Crimea and the drones and other surveillance assets that were trying to monitor everybody doing the right thing were regularly interfered with. So, we know what was going on before the war, we don't have any open source about what's going on right now but there's a lot of indications that the Russians are not denying GPS entirely to the Ukraine.
One, I think we would hear about it and, two, we have a sense that Russia needs GPS operating to some degree in the Ukraine where they are in the Ukraine in order to accomplish their goals as well. I think they want the infrastructure that they need to use or they want to use to continue on. And we've seen things like Russian fighter jets being down that have commercial GPS receivers duct taped to their dashboard because, presumably, they don't have the equipment on board to use to access their own satellite navigation system and that equipment's not available to them commercially or maybe their satellite system, I don't think, is sufficiently reliable. It's hard to say, but we do know things like that, that they seem to be using it for some things.
Ken Miller (32:10):
Where do you see this going? Because at least, from an observer standpoint, we were surprised at how Russia conducted the early phase of the operation. And to a degree, now a year out, it seems to be a little bit more like, okay, this is what we expected originally in terms of some of the tactics they used and some of the points of emphasis that they're following. This hopefully will not be going on for a long time but, into the near future, what do you expect to see more of or less of on this particular issue as it pertains to Ukraine or Russia? In other words, I'm asking you to speculate even though earlier in the episode you said, "I'm not going to speculate." But how can you help us look at this issue into the future a little bit and what to think about?
Dana Goward (32:53):
Well, let me say that positioning navigation timing is going to continue to be critical for Ukraine and for the United States. You may have noticed in the press where Elon Musk was upset that Starlink services were being used by the Ukrainians for military purposes. So, it's pretty clear to us that what that means is that the Ukrainians have figured out how to reverse engineer the Starlink communications system to also use it as a navigation system. So, Starlink is in low earth orbit as opposed to GPS being in medium earth orbit, it has a much stronger signal, it has other attributes that make it more difficult to interfere with.
So, while the Russians might be jamming GPS so that the Ukrainian drones can't find their way to their targets, the Ukrainians, if they were able to continue to use Starlink for navigation, could very effectively navigate their drones precisely to their targets. And so, militarily and geopolitically, it was quite significant that Elon Musk took action to prevent them from doing that. That has implications, I think, for every nation and it's an example to us in the United States that, while China and Russia have terrestrial systems that they can use for timing and navigation, as do some other countries, we do not. And so, we are hanging everything on this fragile set of signals from space and our adversaries have chosen not to do so.
So, if someone can deny us those signals from space, they can do to us what Elon Musk did to the Ukraine and completely defang us. And as we talked about earlier, if they really deny it to us, then it has implications for all of our infrastructure and it's a near existential threat.
Ken Miller (34:50):
What are some of the things, from a policy perspective or a technology perspective, that we need to be thinking about putting some of our focus on when we think about protecting critical infrastructure from a range of attacks and this also affects critical infrastructure? One of the problems we always run into is the cost of it and how do you get private companies or commercial interest to understand that the cost is worth the protection and security that you get even though the threat might not necessarily seem clear and present? How do you get everybody on board with a countermeasure or with a protection effort?
Dana Goward (35:28):
Sure. Well, that's a classic governmental leadership issue, isn't it? How do we get seat belts in cars over the many years? How do we get a malodorant in natural gas? How do we get hardened cockpit doors or have better levees in New Orleans? A lot of those were a result of severe national trauma. Seatbelts not so much but it's very difficult sometimes to affect these kinds of national changes without some significant, cathartic, tragic national event. So, we hope in this instance that that's not the case, it doesn't work that way. So, from a government leadership perspective, how do you do that? Well, typical carrot and stick.
So, the first thing you do is you make doing the right thing as easy as possible, as inexpensive as possible. So, you encourage research to make equipment much less expensive, you provide signals for free just as you do with GPS, that's how GPS got adopted. You establish requirements related to safety and national security and level the playing field so one company doesn't feel like they're being disadvantaged because they're being required to do something another company is doing if they're in the same industry and they're both critical and you think that they need to be protected. And you do that across what we call protect, toughen and augment. That's the abbreviated ... There's always three things, when you make a recommendation, you have to have three things.
So, the PNT Advisory Board talks about protect, toughen and augment, So, you protect the signals by having the right laws prohibiting the devices interference and appropriate penalties for people who violate the laws and you have enough people to enforce the laws and you have a monitoring system to be able to detect when the laws are being violated. Toughen, people need to have better equipment because a lot of the problem could be solved with more sophisticated receivers. Perhaps not the national existential issues but a lot of the day-to-day problems, risk that people run in could be solved if they have a bit more sophisticated, albeit a little bit more expensive, receivers.
So, you can address that by encouraging research to make the more resilient receivers less expensive, you can provide subsidies for purchase tax credits. It's the government thing that the government's been doing for decades. And then augmentation, alternative, augmenting, complimentary signals for GPS that work with GPS in the same receiver but could stand alone at the same time if GPS isn't available. And you make that as easy for folks to incorporate and adopt and use as is humanly possible.
Ken Miller (38:01):
Great. So, if anyone wanted to get more information on this, they can contact your organization. Again, it's the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation, it's a charitable organization. How do people get a hold of you or the foundation or how should they do that via email or website?
Dana Goward (38:17):
Sure. Our website is R-N-T-F-N-D dot O-R-G, there's an 800 number on the website as well as an inquiries at number. My personal email is dgoward, delta, golf, Oscar, whiskey, alpha, Romeo, delta @rntfnd dot O-R-G. And so, they should reach out whenever they like with whatever questions they like. We have the opportunity for individual and corporate memberships on the site and we have quite the collection of companies from large ones like Google to small ones that are very niche navigation providers across the spectrum who support our efforts and we are always looking for more folks.
Ken Miller (39:00):
Well, that's great. And so, I thank you so much for taking more time to join us here From the Crows' Nest and on the heels of the AOC webinar series. We'll provide the links and that information as well on the show notes. And of course, again, if you're an AOC member, you can go to AOC website at and download Dana's presentation. And if you're not a member, you might want to consider doing that because we have both webinars and podcasts, we like to share information, you get to build up your resource library that way. So, with that, Dana, again, thank you for joining me, it's a great conversation, I hope to have you back on in the near future.
Dana Goward (39:36):
Thank you. My pleasure and it's great to be a Crow myself. Thanks.
Ken Miller (39:40):
That will conclude this episode of From The Crows' Nest. I want to thank my guest, Dana Goward, for joining me. Also, don't forget to review, share, and subscribe to this podcast, we always enjoy hearing from our listeners so please take some time to let us know how we're doing. That's it for today. Again, you can follow me on Twitter at FTCNHost and look out on our website at or our eCrow newsletter for my article on the FY 2024 defense budget. Thank you for listening.


Page of