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    Re: Greenwich Conference: GPS military or civilian
    From: Geoffrey Kolbe
    Date: 2014 Apr 6, 07:38 +0100
    Frank, I am not going to speculate on how the US military might turn off or render useless civilian aspects of GPS. However, I would comment that these 'fellas' who were there and experienced GPS not behaving as it should are not stupid people and I don't think they would have concluded that GPS was being deliberately interfered with had they not considering mishap or coincidence first. However, as you say - and as I alluded - we should believe anybody without hard evidence....

    One thing Carlene Stephens did say in defence of her position (that GPS was primarily a military system in its inception) is that the turning point at which GPS became freely available to the public was the Korean air disaster in 1983. A Boeing 747  with 269 people on board was shot down after inadvertently straying into Soviet airspace. After that disaster, President Reagan declared that GPS should be freely available for civilian use "for the common good". Bare in mind that the first generation satellites had already been in orbit for five years at that stage. So if this really does mark a change in intention for GPS usage, it cannot be claimed that this was the original intent.

    I think it is true to say as well that everybody was surprised at the take-up of this technology for civilian use. Nobody predicted back in the 1960s and 70s when GPS was being planned, (and the US Army Air Force and the US Navy were fiercely competing to get the approval for their particular concepts) that civilian use would be so widespread and so integrated into our culture within such a short time. Stephens also cited the turn off of Selective Availability (which deliberately degraded the accuracy of GPS receivers) by President Clinton in 2000 as further evidence of the US wishing to change the emphasis from a military system to a civilian system. But by 2000  there were so many work-arounds available to correct for the SA error that in fact, this Presidential decree was just an admission of the reality that SA was no longer effective.

    Turning away from the specifics of this particular subject, I would make a general comment that the standard of presentation in this conference was unexpectedly poor. Most notably, the professional scholars - who should be well practiced at giving slick presentations - were the worst in this regard. Many gabbled through a written text, forgetting to change slides at the right place - or even at all! As I have already outlined, there were many instances where presenters conflicted with each other in the conclusions they drew from their talks (and in one instance even conflicted with the known facts!) and it would have been nice to have the time for questions where the presenter could defend their position. But there was only 5 minutes for questions anyway, and as the ill prepared talks frequently over-ran their allotted 25 minutes, effective questioning was not possible.

    I should balance that statement by saying that the facilities laid on by the Greenwich Maritime Museum were certainly up to their usual very high standard and Richard Dunn and his staff looked after us very well indeed. I would like to express my thanks to Richard Dunn for setting up this conference and for being such a good host.

    Geoffrey Kolbe


    On Sun, Apr 6, 2014 at 1:31 AM, Frank Reed <FrankReed{at}historicalatlas.com> wrote:

    Geoffrey, you wrote:
    "Firstly, you may be correct that GPS has never been turned off globally. But I would suggest that a localised or regionalised shut down of GPS may well be possible."

    How? Certainly local jamming is possible. Would the US military jam its own system? Well maybe. If they had some sort of filter to remove the jamming signal. That's not really the same thing as shutting down GPS.

    You added:
    "There were some fellas at the conference who seem to have ' been there' in sensitive areas at sensitive times who are pretty sure that is what took place."

    I would not be surprised if they saw some targeted jamming, like above. It's also possible that they saw something coincidental. For example, in the relatively early days of GPS, if two satellites had suffered temporary outages simultaneously by coincidence, many people would assume it was intentional. And there's no way to prove them wrong until records are de-classified.

    And you wrote:
    "Of course, why should we believe them? But then, why should we believe you?"

    First, I know you were being rhetorical here, but for the record, I trust Richard Langley's comments on this topic, because he's a world-renowned expert on GPS, and, since he's Canadian, not bound by any narrow patriotism (except to hockey and maple leafs and whatever else they have up there... ;) ). That out of the way, I don't trust anyone without evidence. Where is the evidence that the Pentagon shut off GPS? An anecdote is worth looking into, but it's not evidence.

    On the general topic, clearly the GPS system was bought and paid for as a weapons-targeting system. It was also separately sold for its tremendous spin-off in civilian systems, and this was clear right from the beginning. Civilian spin-off, however, does not invalidate the thesis that this was "all about the Cold War".. I recall somewhere a story (can anyone remind me?) about GPS being demo-ed somewhere in Europe as an example of the transformative technological advantages of the West. In other words, "look at our cool stuff! don't you want to be on this side of the Cold War?" The actual civilian payoff from GPS, continuing long after the end of the Cold War, has probably paid for the system twice over, but it's highly unlikely that it ever would have been funded at such an early date without the requirements of weapons targeting. The Cold War made it happen.

    -FER
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    --
    Dr Geoffrey Kolbe, Riccarton Farm, Newcastleton, Scotland, TD9 0SN
    Tel: 013873 76715
       
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