GPS 3 satellite (Lockheed Martin)

WASHINGTON — The Global Positioning System constellation will have its own caucus of supporters on Capitol Hill, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) announced on Monday.

The caucus will seek to promote the economic, national security and infrastructure benefits of GPS technology, and will drive attention to the risks and oversight challenges that face the GPS industry, the senators said in a news release.

The GPS is a constellation of 31 satellites developed and operated by the U.S. Air Force that provides users with positioning, navigation, and timing services.

This will be a bipartisan caucus that, lawmakers said, is necessary to bring a central focus to GPS-related issues. Today, different aspects of GPS fall under several Senate committees, including the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Commerce, Science and Transportation.

“GPS has proven to be an invaluable tool in making our transportation systems more efficient and more secure,”said Duckworth.“This technology has the potential to further improve our nation’s military readiness, infrastructure and agricultural production, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to maintain and promote effective oversight of this technology.”

In 1978 the U.S. Air Force launched its first GPS satellite. “Forty-one years later, we’re continuing to see the tremendous impact of this resource,” Ernst said. “GPS has been a strong contributor to our nation’s security and growth,” she said. The agriculture industry depends on GPS for weather mapping and crop projections, Ernst noted. “And our military personnel needs the most reliable data.”

Other members of the caucus include Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) and Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.). They joined Duckworth and Ernst in introducing a resolution recognizing the contributions and importance of the GPS constellation, which generates an estimated $68.7 billion to the U.S. economy. “GPS-enabled precision agriculture is estimated to save farmers 10 to 15 percent in operating costs — leading to an estimated $13.7 billion in economic benefits to the farming industry,” the resolution said. “GPS impacts nearly all levels of infrastructure in the U.S., including: air, ground and sea transportation systems; with additional support for land surveying and mapping sectors.”

“By forming this caucus, I look forward to working with my colleagues to expand and promote the use of this technology,” said Loebsack.

Bacon, a 30-year Air Force veteran, said he takes “immense pride in the GPS constellation.” More than 12,000 miles away, “these incredible satellites not only enable our national security but they also power every sector of the American economy.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...