WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Susan Collins, R-Me., Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, issued this statement Thursday on the decision by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to mothball the LORAN navigation system, used by mariners and others for more than half a century:
“The mistaken decision to terminate the Long Range Aide to Navigation (LORAN)-C navigational signal ignores the law, which requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to determine if this infrastructure is needed as a backup for the Global Positioning System (GPS) prior to termination.
“During the past 10 years, approximately $160 million in taxpayer funds have been invested toward modernizing the LORAN-C network, equipment, and infrastructure. This investment of taxpayer money represents progress toward the full deployment of Enhanced LORAN, also known as eLORAN, designed from the beginning to be a backup to GPS.
“The GPS signal, which is broadcast by satellites, has considerable and well-known limitations. By the time its signal reaches a GPS receiver on Earth, it is extremely weak and far below the strength of many radio transmissions. As a result, the GPS signal generally requires a line-of-sight to the satellite in order to be received, making it vulnerable to interference or deliberate jamming. LORAN, conversely, transmits a high-power signal that is resistant to interference and can penetrate obstructions, such as bridges, beneath foliage, and inside buildings. Thus, the LORAN signal can reach locations where the GPS signal cannot.
“Given the vulnerabilities and limitations of GPS, LORAN should be maintained and enhanced to become a vital backup system to GPS for various critical infrastructure users. In terms of taxpayer investment, the best course of action clearly would be to keep and upgrade to eLORAN. In terms of commerce, national defense and security, following this course of action becomes even more apparent and indisputable.
“Among the current users of LORAN technology are the men and women who earn their living on the sea, including many fishermen in Maine and New England. For them, this is not an academic exercise. Many of them still have LORAN equipment and use LORAN either as a primary navigational tool or could use it as a backup to GPS. From experience, they know what we also must recognize: when it comes to technology, redundant systems must be built into our infrastructure. A lone system is problematic and ill-advised on so many levels. We need LORAN as a backup to GPS.
“Furthermore, pulling the plug on LORAN now will likely prove “pennywise and pound foolish,” because the fact is that there is no other system, or constellation of systems, that offers a more robust and cost-effective backup to GPS than eLORAN. It is my urgent request that the Secretary reconsider this ill-informed decision.”