Improving Resilience and Fostering Responsible Use of Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Services
The national and economic security of the United States depends on reliable Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT), which is an essential component of the nation’s transportation infrastructure. The civil, commercial, and military sectors rely on PNT technology to provide critical location services in the air, on land, and at sea.
On February 12, 2020, the White House issued Executive Order 13905 “Strengthening National Resilience through Responsible Use of Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Services,” with the goal of fostering the responsible application of PNT services by critical infrastructure users, owners, and operators (including the transportation industry), to strengthen national resilience.
- The objective of Executive Order 13905 is to ensure disrupted or manipulated PNT systems do not undermine the reliability or efficiency of critical infrastructure services by:
- Raising awareness of the extent to which critical infrastructure depends on PNT services;
- Ensuring critical infrastructure can withstand disruption or manipulation of PNT services; and
- Engaging the public and private sectors to promote responsible use of PNT services.
In response to the Executive Order, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (OST-R) and Maritime Administration (MARAD), developed a Pilot Program Plan in August 2020 to address Global Positioning System (GPS) jamming and spoofing in the maritime environment. In December 2020, U.S. DOT hosted a workshop, “GPS Jamming and Spoofing in the Maritime Environment,” which featured speakers from government, industry, and non-profit PNT organizations. The objective of this workshop was to raise awareness of the extent to which maritime vessels depend on PNT services among commercial vessel operators, regulators, enforcement organizations, technology providers, PNT experts, and policy agencies. In February 2021, OST-R initiated an interagency agreement with the U.S. DOT Volpe Center to support DOT Pilot Program MARAD Phase I with the primary goal of applying guidance provided in NISTIR 8323 Foundational PNT Profile: Applying the Cybersecurity Framework for the Responsible Use of Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT Services through an application-based effort.
The pilot program focused on operations in the maritime environment and provided findings and recommendations along each of the four components by:
- Identifying specific shipboard systems on MARAD Ready Reserve Fleet (RRF) vessels that use or form PNT data—through stakeholder outreach, fleet inventories, and individual ship surveys.
- Identifying both existing and alternative PNT data sources suitable for the maritime operating environment—through operational testing and data collection aboard both stationary and active ships.
- Detecting the disruption and manipulation of PNT services in a marine environment—through successful testing of shipboard PNT equipment in both laboratory and real-world operational settings, under normal and disrupted/manipulated conditions.
- Providing MARAD with a framework to manage the associated risks to the shipboard systems, networks, and assets that depend on PNT services—by identifying equipment that provides protection (i.e., shields and/or defeats manipulation of PNT) and augmentation (i.e., utilizes alternative PNT signals), and sharing that information with key stakeholders.
The U.S. DOT Volpe Center managed the pilot project from start to finish by utilizing its expertise in PNT and leveraging critical contractor support. Major project work was conducted at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts with field testing completed in Fairfax, Virginia. The impact of this project is specific to MARAD’s RRF. A final report was completed in December 2022, and the U.S. DOT Volpe Center is working on releasing a version to the public.
The success of DOT Pilot Program MARAD Phase I has led to DOT Pilot Program MARAD Phase II to conduct additional testing and further MARAD’s efforts to adopt resilient PNT solutions, as well as a similar pilot program for FRA. U.S. DOT Volpe Center engineers will support FRA by conducting vulnerability testing and identifying existing and complementary PNT data sources suitable for rail applications through operational testing and data collection aboard stationary and active trains.