Office of the Secretary ~ Washington, DC 20230

Monday, May 1, 2000
Contacts: Morrie Goodman, (202) 482-4883
Steven Jacques, (202) 482-4470

U.S. Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley Applauds Decision To Make Global Positioning System More Accurate for Civilian Users

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Commerce Secretary William M. Daley today praised the decision of President Clinton, Secretary of Defense Cohen, and the Interagency GPS Executive Board to improve the accuracy of the Global Positioning System (GPS) for civilian users by deactivating the Selective Availability (SA) feature.

"This move has the potential to do for GPS what the PC has done for computing, making this powerful information technology far more accessible and affordable to the broad public," Daley said.

"The decision to terminate Selective Availability will benefit millions of commercial, scientific, and governmental users of GPS within the United States and around the world," according to Daley. "Beginning tomorrow, these civilian users will enjoy dramatically improved GPS accuracy for navigation, positioning and timing."

"Until now, Selective Availability has been a significant impediment to the global utilization of GPS," said Dr. D. James Baker, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "Now GPS will directly provide more accurate positioning that will benefit public safety, commercial development, and improved quality of life. Truly, we are entering a new age where we are better linked to one another through universally accurate GPS positioning."

"By providing the GPS service free of charge, openly publishing receiver design specifications and encouraging open market competition, the U.S. government has fostered an estimated $8 billion global market for GPS related goods and services," said Dr. Cheryl Shavers, Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology. "With the removal of Selective Availability, we can expect this market to more than double within the next three years as this compelling technology reaches the hands of mass consumers everywhere."

The Global Positioning System is a constellation of satellites providing precise position and time data to users around the world. Originally designed to serve the military, GPS is now used by a broad range of civilian industries -- including construction, agriculture, mining, aviation, shipping and telecommunications -- and represents a critical component of the global information infrastructure. GPS is also used by federal agencies such as NOAA, which employs the technology to navigate vessels, survey land and waterways and study the atmosphere.

Selective Availability (SA) is the deliberate introduction of error to the precise timekeeping of the GPS satellites, thereby reducing both positioning and timing accuracy for civilian users. It was designed to provide U.S. and Allied military forces with a navigational advantage in times of crisis or conflict. With SA activated, civilians are only guaranteed to be within a 100 meter radius of where their GPS receivers say they are. The removal of SA will give civilian users a predicted error of approximately 20 meters. Depending upon the circumstances, some real-world users will experience far better accuracy. For example, when SA was temporarily turned off in 1994, one user reported readings with an accuracy of 9 meters.

At the recommendation of the Secretary of Defense and the Interagency GPS Executive Board, President Clinton has ordered that SA be turned off at midnight tonight. The Interagency GPS Executive Board is the senior level body created by the President to manage GPS as a national asset. The Commerce Department serves on the Board as a key representative of the commercial, scientific and governmental user communities.

Additional information on GPS and the Interagency GPS Executive Board is available on the World Wide Web:


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