Wednesday, February 19, 2020

EO 13905 – Responsible Use of PNT Services

Yesterday the President published a new executive order in the Federal Register (85 FR 9359-9361) on “Strengthening National Resilience Through Responsible Use of Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Services”. EO 13905 will require actions by various agencies of the Federal Government to “foster the responsible use of PNT services by critical infrastructure owners and operators”.


Section 2 of the order provides a listing of the critical definitions used; they include:

PNT services – any system, network, or capability that provides a reference to calculate or augment the calculation of longitude, latitude, altitude, or transmission of time or frequency data, or any combination thereof.

Responsible use of PNT services – the deliberate, risk-informed use of PNT services, including their acquisition, integration, and deployment, such that disruption or manipulation of PNT services minimally affects national security, the economy, public health, and the critical functions of the Federal Government.

PNT profile – a description of the responsible use of PNT services—aligned to standards, guidelines, and sector-specific requirements—selected for a particular system to address the potential disruption or manipulation of PNT services.

PNT Profiles

Section 4 of the Order requires the Department of Commerce (DOC) to develop PNT profiles. Those profiles will {§4(a)}:

• Enable the public and private sectors to identify systems, networks, and assets dependent on PNT services;
• Identify appropriate PNT services;
• Detect the disruption and manipulation of PNT services; and
• Manage the associated risks to the systems, networks, and assets dependent on PNT services

PNT profiles will be referenced in the Coast Guard’s Federal Radionavigation Plan.

DHS will develop a plan to “test the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure systems, networks, and assets in the event of disruption and manipulation of PNT services.” The results of the tests will be used to update PNT profiles.

Where appropriate, PNT profiles will be referenced in Federal acquisition contracts “with the goal of encouraging the private sector to use additional PNT services and develop new robust and secure PNT services.”

DOT, DOE and DHS will develop pilot programs “to engage with critical infrastructure owners or operators to evaluate the responsible use of PNT services.” These pilot programs will help inform efforts by the Director of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to develop a national plan “for the R&D and pilot testing of additional, robust, and secure PNT services that are not dependent on global navigation satellite systems (GNSS).” In support of this effort, the DOC will “make available a GNSS-independent source of Coordinated Universal Time, to support the needs of critical infrastructure owners and operators”.


This is not the first presidential policy on PNT issues. In 2004, President Bush updated the 1996 based policy document on U.S. Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Policy. That effort, however, was based upon optimizing the use of the GPS based GNSS. Since that time, it has become obvious that spoofing the satellite signals has become an operational reality, posing a potential danger to the continued use of GNSS based PNT. This potential danger was publicly recognized as early as 2014 by the PNT Advisory Board. In 2015 DOT started looking at the use of the eLoran system as an alternative to GNSS PNT.

It will be interesting to see how DOC and the rest of the government deals with the PNT profiles mandated in this EO. The large the number of ‘profiles’ developed the more useful they will be for private sector use in the internal evaluation of the use of PNT services. On the other hand, minimizing the number of profiles developed will make things easier for government agencies to develop broad, minimally specific guidance documents.

Of particular usefulness would be detailed information on how to ‘detect the disruption and manipulation of PNT services’. Again, user/operators will be best served by the most detailed information available. Government agencies, however, may feel better served by providing only the most generic information.

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