Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The End of LORAN-C

Once again the U.S. has made itself more vulnerable by increasing its dependence on exposed technology systems. February 8 marked the termination of LORAN-C (Long Range Navigation) signals, a navigation system that uses multiple radio transmitters to determine location and speed. Due to the development of modern satelittes and GPS, LORAN has become an antiquated system that the transportation sector and military no longer rely on. However, LORAN has been a cheap and effective backup to GPS and could continue to fulfill that role with minimal funding.

LORAN’s funding was cut by Congress, but that cut in funding was conditional on certification from the Secretary of Homeland Security that the LORAN system is not needed as a backup to GPS. Nobody likes redundancy and wasteful spending, but LORAN was a technically different system from GPS that provided the U.S. an alternative accurate navigation system.

In the event of a disruption to GPS the U.S. would be vulnerable to potentially huge economic damage and our increasingly technology-dependent military would be less effective. Relying on a single exposed system makes our transportation and military sectors more vulnerable. Widespread GPS failure caused by enemy jammers, cyber attackers, a solar storm, software malfunction, electromagnetic pulse, satellite loss, or a natural reversal of the polarity of the earth’s magnetic field could leave the U.S. literally “flying blind.”

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