The United States and Europe Should Work Together to Build a Multinational Global Navigation Satellite System

Research Brief

The space-based Global Positioning System (GPS) has been the preeminent source of positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) data for the U.S. military and for civilian and commercial applications. GPS is managed by the Interagency GPS Executive Board (IGEB), which is chaired jointly by the U.S. Departments of Defense and Transportation. GPS data are available for free to U.S. and international users, but IGEB oversight enables the United States to retain control of critical GPS information technology and to ensure that U.S. civilian and military organizations can participate in the economic growth and technical maturity that result from this technology.

The European Union (EU) expects that by 2008 it will begin initial operations of Galileo, a European space-based PNT system. Galileo will be similar to GPS in that it will provide free basic service for mass-market applications, but it will be different in that it will have civilian rather than government control and will charge fees for enhanced services. Some U.S. policymakers are concerned that the competitive environment ushered in by Galileo will create a fragmented user base for GPS and will have an overall negative economic impact in the United States. RAND Project AIR FORCE (PAF) explored these issues and concluded the following:

GPS-Galileo Cooperation Offers Opportunities for Economic Benefits

Galileo’s economic impact in the United States should be minimal if the EU does not apply restrictive policies in Europe that mandate the use of Galileo over GPS. In fact, both the United States and Europe may realize economic benefits with a cooperative approach that enables seamless use of both systems. PAF recommended that the United States increase cooperation with Galileo and provide superior civilian service based on market research.

GPS-Galileo Cooperation May Enhance Service for the Global Community

PAF found that it is important for the United States to maintain GPS as a reliable source of PNT data for the global community, to leverage opportunities (such as Galileo) to modernize GPS and offer enhanced services, and, potentially, to maximize the use of GPS for future cooperative arrangements. To meet these goals, the United States should explore the range of options for working with the EU as a cooperative partner in the provision of PNT data and services.

Galileo Could Ease the Burden of the GPS Civilian Requirements

GPS will continue to provide services to both civilians and the military. However, at present both GPS and Galileo are trying to provide a level of service that is difficult to meet individually but may be achievable jointly. A future world in which civilian users voluntarily migrate to or integrate with Galileo services may present an opportunity to avert or reduce future expenditures for GPS civilian requirements. The United States should evaluate these implications and should consider the potential benefits of sharing the responsibility for providing the civilian service with Galileo.


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This product is part of the RAND Corporation research brief series. RAND research briefs present policy-oriented summaries of individual published, peer-reviewed documents or of a body of published work.

This research brief describes work done for RAND Project AIR FORCE and documented in Building a Multinational Global Navigation Satellite System: An Initial Look by Rosalind Lewis, Michael Kennedy, Elham Ghashghai, and Gordon Bitko, MG-284-AF, 2005, 126 pages, ISBN: 0-8330-3735-8 (Full Document). Copies of this research brief and the complete report on which it is based are available from RAND Distribution Services (phone: 310-451-7002; toll free: 877-584-8642; or email: order@rand.org).

Copyright © 2005 RAND Corporation

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RB-169-AF (2005)