Loran Study Finally Unleashed: Says Keep It, Best Option

May 12, 2009  - By 0 Comments

Withheld from the public for two years, since its completion in March 2007, the Independent Assessment Team (IAT) report has been let out of detention, just in time to counter recent efforts by the Obama administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Coast Guard to throttle the program. The IAT “unanimously recommends that the U.S. government complete the eLoran upgrade and commit to eLoran as the national backup to GPS for 20 years.” The IAT’s conclusion has long been informally known throughout the GPS industry, but the report’s release adds considerable weight, expertise, and specifics to a long, determined campaign to preserve the program.

Compiled by the Institute for Defense Analyses, the IAT report has been held back from public release since March 20, 2007, when it was completed and presented to the co-sponsoring Department of Transportation and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Executive Committees. Its release now comes only after an extensive Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) battle waged by industry representatives against the federal government.

Download the 32-page “Independent Assessment Team (IAT) Summary of Initial Findings on eLoran” here.

The report asserts that “eLoran is the only cost-effective backup for national needs; it is completely interoperable with and independent of GPS, with different propagation and failure mechanisms. . . . It is a seamless backup, and its use will deter threats to U.S. national and economic security by disrupting (jamming) GPS reception.”

The IAT, chaired by Bradford Parkinson, founding program director for GPS, and assisted by other industry experts, evaluated all available or potential alternatives for a GPS backup. In particular, it examined the costs of the Loran system and a transition to a new, modernized enhanced or “eLoran.” It found eLoran’s infrastructure enhancements to be 70 percent complete, and the cost to complete its rollout less expensive than decommissioning the Loran system.

The two-year-old report finally arrives in public view, staking out direct opposition to recent comments made by the DHS that Loran termination will save $190 million over five years. Such claims failed to specify or include the decommissioning costs, or explore the operational savings available with modern eLoran transmitters. Senior DHS representatives have — unbelievably, but yes, it is true — claimed recently that it is not clear a GPS backup is needed, and have taken the time-honored route of recommending additional study.

The IAT report concludes that “eLoran be completed and retained as the national backup system for critical safety of life, national and economic security, and quality of life applications currently reliant on position, time, and/or frequency from GPS.” Its authors emphasize that “the U.S. government policy decision is needed to motivate users to equip.”

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GPS World staff

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