Congress Prohibits GLONASS Stations in US Without DOD/DNI Approval

Congress Prohibits GLONASS Stations in US Without DOD/DNI Approval

The final version of the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that just cleared Congress includes language prohibiting the President from allowing Russia to put GLONASS monitor stations on U.S. soil without the approval of the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) and Director of National Intelligence (DNI).

The State Department has been considering a Russian request to place monitor stations within the United States for Russia’s GLONASS navigation satellite system, its equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS).   The stations would increase the accuracy of GLONASS.   GLONASS and GPS are elements of a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and U.S. objectives with regard to GNSS are to ensure compatibility, achieve interoperability, and promote fair competition in the marketplace.

No agreement has been struck to allow GLONASS stations in the United States, but the possibility raised concerns in the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community that became public in an article in the New York Times last month.

The language in the NDAA (sec. 1602(b)) prohibits the President from authorizing or permitting “the construction of a global navigation satellite system ground monitoring station directly or indirectly controlled by a foreign government” on U.S. territory unless the SecDef and DNI “jointly certify” to Congress that any such ground station “will not possess the capability or potential to be for the purpose of gathering intelligence in the United States or improving any foreign weapon system.”  The SecDef and DNI may jointly grant a waiver to that requirement if certain conditions are met, however.   The section includes a 5-year sunset clause so will be in effect for only 5 years from the date the President signs the bill into law.

The National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Advisory Board advises the government on issues concerning GPS and GNSS.  It was briefed on Russia’s proposal at its May 7-8, 2013 meeting and expressed no concerns according to the meeting’s minutes.  It received another briefing at its December 3-4, 2013 meeting.  The minutes of that meeting are not available yet, but the presentation by Ken Hodgkins, Director of the State Department’s Office of Space and Advanced Technology, points out that “no final decisions have been made” and Russia’s proposal has “evolved” based on discussions that have taken place already.

The FY2014 NDAA cleared its final congressional hurdle on Thursday, passing the Senate by a vote of 84-15.  The President is expected to sign it.

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