Global Positioning Technology

Opportunities for Greater Federal Agency Joint Development and Use Gao ID: RCED-94-280 September 28, 1994

Recent technology has made it possible to greatly improve the accuracy of global positioning information available from satellites. This technology, called Differential Global Positioning Systems, allows pilots, surveyors, and other using satellite positioning information for civil uses to determine their position on earth to within a few meters--or even a few centimeters. Many civilian federal agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration, are actively pursuing the use of this technology. GAO looked into whether federal agencies are taking full advantage of opportunities to share or jointly develop their systems so as to minimize the cost to taxpayers. This report discusses (1) the extent to which agencies have been developing joint systems or sharing equipment and (2) additional steps that may be needed to enhance joint development or sharing of Differential Global Positioning Systems equipment, facilities, and information.

GAO found that: (1) between 1988 and 1993, few agencies developed joint DGPS systems or shared DGPS equipment because they were exploring different applications and there was no interagency coordinating mechanism; (2) single-agency systems developed for mapping, surveying, and related activities could not share information because of incompatible equipment and data formats and differing agency operating procedures; (3) agencies had few incentives to share DGPS information or develop joint systems; (4) in 1993, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Aviation Administration modified their DGPS to make them easier for other agencies to use; (5) a Department of Defense and Department of Transportation task force, formed to study DGPS issues, concluded that the ad hoc approach to DGPS development would likely result in unnecessary duplication; (6) the continuing rapid increase in DGPS applications increases the need for effective governmentwide coordination; and (7) the government is addressing technical coordination issues, but it is doubtful whether the coordinating structure will be adequate to ensure joint DGPS development and use.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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