Concerned parents use it to keep an eye on their kids. Government conspiracists think it's tracking our every move. Insurance companies want to use it to make more money. Drivers follow it blindly. Yes, GPS is a powerful part of our daily lives, but it's in jeopardy.

The U.S. Department of Defense, which owns and administers the GPS satellite system, is over budget and behind schedule in its maintenance. A thorough revamp of the equipment is scheduled to take place through 2013, but costs and technical hurdles could delay that timeline.

Why the bother? Because the equipment currently orbiting the Earth isn't going to last forever. The $5.8 billion allotted for the DOD's project is currently projected to fall at least $870 million short, reports CNet, and the next-gen satellites aren't meeting construction and deployment deadlines.

The cause of the problem is laid at the feet of the lack of a clear leadership on the GPS program, which has seen a quick succession of managers and involves more officials, organizations and acronyms than the average CIA gala.

Complicating the problem has been a series of mergers in the private sector companies that contract much of the GPS work from the DOD, including Boeing's acquisition of Rockwell, followed by a merger with McDonnell Douglas and the acquisition of Hughes Electronics.

The consequences of all of this bureaucratic hoopla: less accuracy in the GPS system as systems degrade, which could mean not only slower or less accurate routing for all of us on the ground, but also for commercial airlines and even military applications.

Given the huge importance of the GPS network to military, government and civilian daily life, however, don't start planning your nights around GPS satellite re-entries just yet. Cost and technical difficulties aside, the system is simply too valuable to let it fall into complete disrepair.
Via: TheCarConnection