President Clinton announced that the United States is stopping the intentional degradation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) signals available to the public. That feature was called Selective Availability (SA). This will mean that civilian users of GPS will be able to pinpoint locations up to ten times more accurately than they do now. GPS is a dual-use, satellite-based system that provides accurate location and timing data to users worldwide.
The decision to discontinue SA is the latest measure in an on-going effort to make GPS more responsive to civil and commercial users worldwide. Last year, Vice President Gore announced plans to modernize GPS by adding two new civilian signals to enhance the civil and commercial service. This initiative is on-track and the budget further advances modernization by incorporating some of the new features on up to 18 additional satellites that are already awaiting launch or are in production. These capabilities will continue to be provided to worldwide users free of charge.
It was realized that worldwide transportation safety, scientific, and commercial interests could best be served by discontinuation of SA. The decision to discontinue SA is coupled with continuing efforts to upgrade the military utility of the US systems that use GPS, and is supported by threat assessments, which conclude that setting SA to zero at this time would have minimal impact on national security.
Additionally, the capability to selectively deny GPS signals on a regional basis when the US national security is threatened has been demonstrated. This regional approach to denying navigation services is consistent with the 1996 plan to discontinue the degradation of civil and commercial GPS service globally through the SA technique.
More information: U.S. Newswire, 1 May 12:22, Clinton Statement on Global Positioning System Accuracy; Contact: White House Press Office