Wednesday, February 12, 2020


Office of the Press Secretary


Via Teleconference

10:07 A.M. EST

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hello.  Good morning everyone.  Thanks for joining us today for a background briefing on the signing of the Executive Order on Strengthening National Resilience Through the Responsible Use of Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Services -- or “PNT” services.

     This call is embargoed until its conclusion and is attributable on background to senior administration officials.

     Today we have [senior administration officials].  Each of our senior officials will give brief remarks and then will go into Q&A.  And with that, I’ll turn it over to our first senior administration official. 

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Good morning and thank you everyone for joining us on the call today.  This morning, President Trump signed the Executive Order on Strengthening National Resilience Through Responsible Use of Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Services, formally known as “PNT.”

     This is the first-ever executive order on PNT use and serves to highlight how important this utility has become to the functioning of the nation’s critical infrastructure.  As we continue to enhance society through technological advancements, PNT service will be relied upon in new and ever-demanding methods.

     PNT service such as U.S. Global Positioning System, or “GPS,” is among the most used utilities in the world.  Americans rely on it every day for a variety of purposes, ranging from electricity to smart phone applications.

     This EO directs the executive branch departments and agencies, among other things, to develop guidance that mitigates the risk of disruption to critical infrastructure that they rely on: PNT services.

     You will likely hear more about other actions from my agency colleagues, as they’ve joined me on this call.  But together, these actions will help ensure that the United States maintains uninterrupted access to essential services that rely on PNT.  Thank you.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Great.  Thank you very much.  And now we’ll turn it over to [senior administration official].

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you very much and thank you all for listening.  Responsible use of PNT is critical in the transportation area, as all of you now.

     Secretary Chao is focused on reducing deaths and injury.  We can do that by increasing traffic efficiency, by helping navigation systems, emergency systems.  These all depend on a PNT that works properly.

     We have trucks with electronic logging devices to make sure that drivers do not drive past when they are tired.  We have general aviation that needs to work in the fog.  We have shipping.  We have timing signals of traffic lights.  We have intelligent transportation systems.  We now have electronic tolling.

     We have precision agriculture.  Tractors now use PNT to determine where to put the seed down, and where to fertilize that seed, and where to water that seed.

     Then, in the future, we’re going to have autonomous vehicles, driverless platooning trucks, and drones.  So we would like to thank President Trump for being the first President to have an executive order that talks about the responsible use of PNT because it is so important to the American people and the traveling public.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you very much.  Now turning it over to [senior administration official].

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Good morning, everyone.  In support of the Executive Order for the Responsible Use of PNT, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, or “NIST,” which is a non-regulatory agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, will work in a public-private partnership to develop some foundational PNT cybersecurity profiles that will be designed to help organizations meet the objectives in the executive order of achieving responsible PNT and assist them in managing the cybersecurity risks to systems, networks, and assets that they identify and are dependent upon PNT services.

     NIST will also work to meet timing requirements that industries use in support of resilient and responsible PNT.  As part of this, NIST has launched a special calibration service for companies, utilities, or organizations that wish to receive and disseminate U.S. civilian standard time to a newly available commercial fiber-optic cable.  This service will use commercial telecommunications networks and distribute NIST’s realization of the global time standard, independent of GPS.

     This service will be more accurate than its current Internet time service by a factor of a thousand and we believe will move us forward in achieving responsible use of PNT.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  Moving on to [senior administration official].
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Good morning, and thank you.  PNT services are an integral part of our everyday interactions -- from mobile phone applications to automobile navigation.  Our interconnected society is dependent on PNT services.

     It's particularly important for the proper functioning of the nation's critical infrastructure and the recently identified 55 national critical functions.

     The disruption, corruption, or dysfunction of the capabilities, such as PNT services, could have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.

     Because GPS signal and the signals of other countries’ global navigation and satellite systems have been susceptible to manmade and natural disruption, we must engineer our critical infrastructures to be resilient to disruption or manipulation of these signals.

     By adopting a responsible use of PNT services, the federal government owners and operators of critical infrastructure can contribute meaningfully to the nation's resilience and ensure the continued delivery of services to the nation.

     The Department of Homeland Security looks forward to building our relationships with our interagency partners in the private sector to implement the executive order.

     DHS will continue to promote the security and resilience of critical infrastructure through the risk-based, responsible use of GPS and other PNT services.  Thank you.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  And now, [senior administration official].
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  To advance and support U.S. national security and military strategy now and into the future, this EO is attuned to the vital enabling role that PNT capabilities play in shaping the global and economic environment and preparing for future challenges.  The Department of Defense fully supports this EO.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you very much.  We'll now open it up for questions.

     Q    Hello, this is Pete Behr with E&E News.  Thanks for this call.  Are you hearing me for the question?

     Q    So, two questions.  One is: How does this executive order affect the electric utility use of synchrophasor measurements to control the grid?  Would that fiber-optic piece that you mentioned be intended for grid use, and would there be any requirement that utilities use it?
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  This is [senior administration official].  We believe that the application of responsible PNT is applicable across all the sectors.

     In the past, we have worked with the electric grid and the electric subsector to identify the use of synchrophasors and the electric community has really been on the leading edge of this to responsibly use synchrophasors and understand the limitations of them, the risk associated with them, the benefits, and balancing all of those things before they're implemented.

     So we look forward to continuing to work with the electric sector to identify even more robust applications of synchrophasors and responsible use of PNT.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  The time over fiber service certainly could be used in the electric sector and for some of their needs in synchrophasor timing requirements.  The accuracy that it will provide will meet those needs.

     The decision to use it versus a separate source or an internal clock will be up to the internal organization, but it certainly will be offered as a non-GPS dependent and independent time source, should they wish to use it.

     Q    Hi, this is Steve Herman from the Voice of America.  This question relates to NIST and the time signals.  I noticed there's about a 10 percent budget cut proposal for fiscal year 2021.  And specifically, how would this affect NIST and time management and dissemination?  And specifically, what is the fate of the terrestrial time signals -- namely WWV, WWVH, and WWVB -- that have been on the chopping block for some time?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  The current plans are that this will not have an effect on NIST’s other time services and time offerings.  NIST has deployed the time-over-fiber service and we are currently working with providers who wish to utilize this calibration service.  So we are not anticipating any change or disruption to current time services while we stand up and offer this additional calibration service over fiber as well.

     Q    Hi, this is Dave Shepardson from Reuters.  Just two quick questions: Can you talk about the status of the legislation approved in late 2018 that requires the administration to establish a terrestrial backup system for GPS?  And then can you also talk about this in the executive order?  I think, within a year, there has to be a plan to test the vulnerabilities of these systems; can you talk about that as well?  Thanks.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes.  The Department of Transportation put out request for proposals.  We got 20 different companies interested in providing technology -- terrestrial-based technology for PNT.  We are testing 11 of these technologies at our -- in Cape Cod and NASA Langley.  And these tests are going to be completed by May.

     We intend to fully comply with the laws that say that we need to have a recommendation for a backup system or systems in place by the end of 2020.  And then, it'll be up to Congress to provide the funds to fund this act.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  To build on that -- your question about the vulnerability assessments: Every PNT system, just like every cyber system (inaudible) comes with benefits and also potential vulnerabilities.  So, one of the driving foundations there is that as any system is tailored or deployed or adopted by industry, we can assist them in understanding not only what benefits that particular system would provide, but also potential vulnerabilities created by that system, how we can address those vulnerabilities through mitigation efforts, and how we can build security and resilience not only in the PNT system, but also the systems that are supported by the need for PNT data.

     Q    Hi, there.  Thanks for doing the call.  I just want to be clear if there is anything in here that is actually happening yet.  Other than the NIST changes to the time services, it looks like what this executive order does is simply say, "We're going to do -- we're going to direct people to start thinking about doing stuff."  But am I missing something?  Is there anything actually being announced here that is -- that is actually substantive and changes something about the actual technology that is being used by industry and government on the ground today?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Please announce your name and your outlet.

     Q    Oh, sorry.  Mike Shear at the New York Times.


     Q    I’m sorry, was there an answer to the question?  I just -- I’m not hearing anything.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Could you repeat your question, please?

     Q    Okay, sure.  The question is: Is there anything that’s actually happening here?  The executive order seems to simply direct the heads of all the agencies to start thinking about this issue?  And the -- you know, with the exception of the person from NIST, there didn’t seem to be anything announced on the call today that is actually changing in regards to the positioning systems that are being used by the government and industry.  So there is anything actually happening in this executive order or does it just direct the agencies to begin thinking about this issue?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We actually -- thank you.  We do direct the agencies to begin the development of these profiles, which will be used to understand how the different sectors are using PNT.  And once we have an understanding of how the PNT is being used by the various sectors and sub-sectors within the 16 national critical infrastructure sectors, from there we’ll be able to start developing pilots and informing procurement decisions by the federal government on how we move forward with the procurement of devices that fly and use PNT.  And that would be a best practices we set forth and inform how we critically -- private owners and operators of critical infrastructure conduct their business.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  And one last question, please.

     Q    Hello, this is Rick Weber at Inside Cybersecurity.  On the issue of cybersecurity profiles that NIST is working on: If somebody could talk about who the target audience is for that, who would be using those profiles?  Is that the telecom industry or the electric utility industry?  How would those profiles be used?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hey, Rick.  It’s [senior administration official].  So the initial profile set will be a generic tailoring of the cybersecurity framework that will be applicable to many sectors across the U.S. who use or are dependent on PNT as the initial framework development.

     After that, as was discussed, sector agencies, NIST, and industry then will develop specific profiles for mission and context that then can be applied and used both by the government and then voluntarily by others should they wish to also follow the example.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Great.  Thank you everyone for joining today’s call.  As a reminder, this call is attributable on background to senior administration officials.  The call is now concluded and the embargo is lifted.  Thank you.
                              END                 10:24 A.M. EST       

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