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Joint Hearing of the Aviation and Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcomittees of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee - Potential Impacts on Marine and Aviation Safety from Pending LightSquared Plans


Location: Washington, DC

"As a member of the Aviation Subcommittee, I would like to echo Chairman Petri's concerns on the effects of GPS interference on our aviation system as a whole. As the Chairman of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, I feel it is important that we also focus on the effects of GPS interference in the maritime realm. As with aviation, the marine transportation system is highly dependent on GPS. The vast majority of the 12 million recreational vessels, 30,000 fishing vessels, 40,000 commercial vessels, and 9,260 foreign vessels that call on U.S. ports rely on at least one, if not several, GPS based systems for navigation, collision avoidance, and safety of life at sea. For instance, vessel pilots rely on GPS to guide fully loaded LPG tankers up the Delaware River ship channel and under several bridges to their berth in south Philadelphia. The Coast Guard relies on GPS to navigate their aircraft and vessels and to pinpoint the location of boaters in distress.

"During tests of the LightSquared signal, the Coast Guard observed varying levels of interference with GPS dependent technologies critical for search and rescue, port security, maritime safety, and environmental stewardship. I look forward to hearing testimony from the Coast Guard this morning elaborating on the issue of interference and what can be done to mitigate it.

"I want to take a moment to express my extreme disappointment with the Department of Homeland Security in its handling of this issue. The Department, whose mission it is to ensure the safety and security of the maritime transportation system, has failed to formally weigh in on this matter. The Departments of Defense, Transportation, Commerce, and Interior, as well as NASA and other federal agencies were all able to publicly express their concerns prior to the FCC granting a conditional waiver to LightSquared in January. But nearly six months later, the Department of Homeland Security is still "examining" the issue. I find that unacceptable.

"I am also very frustrated the Secretary continues to drag her feet in determining the need for a back-up to GPS. The Administration shut down LORAN, the nation's only GPS back-up system, in February 2010 with no plan for putting in place a new system or even a determination of whether a back-up is needed. Pursuant to the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, this determination was required by April 10, 2011. The potential disruptions to GPS that we are meeting here today to discuss underscore how imperative it is that the Department completes this review as soon as possible.

"Finally, I understand LightSquared has proposed in recent days to limit the signal strength and the frequency they intend to use in an effort to resolve some of these issues. I commend them for that, but I have concerns that this may still interfere with critical GPS dependent technologies. I urge LightSquared, the federal government, and all those affected to actively participate in the testing of this revised proposal to ensure it will not affect the safety and security of our nation. I thank the Chairman for holding this hearing with me today and I look forward to hearing from our broad range of witnesses on the potential solutions to this problem."

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