Glitch reveals U.S. military's weak spot

A problem that left up to 10,000 military GPS units useless for days sparks security concerns

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A problem that rendered as many as 10,000 U.S. military GPS receivers useless for days is a warning to safeguard a system that enemies would love to disrupt, a defense expert says. This glitch shows that the US military relies way too much on GPS.

But it doubtless will not just be the US military for I remember that also the British forces seem to have done away – entirely – with ordinary compasses and rely on the electronic devices altogether. Bad move, as far as I am concerned.

The Air Force has not said how many of its weapons, planes or other systems were affected or whether any were in use in Iraq or Afghanistan. But the problem, blamed on incompatible software, highlights the military's reliance on the Global Positioning System and the need to protect technology that has become essential for protecting troops, tracking vehicles and targeting weapons.

"Everything that moves uses it," said John Pike, director of, which tracks military and homeland security news. "It is so central to the American style of war that you just couldn't leave home without it."

The problem occurred when new software was installed in ground control systems for GPS satellites on Jan. 11, the Air Force said.

Officials said between 8,000 at 10,000 receivers could have been affected, out of more than 800,000 in use across the military.

It would appear to me that our over-reliance and -dependence on electronic equipment of this nature is very bad news and that we must, seriously, reconsider our reliance on them.

I am no Luddite. I do use computers, the Internet and all that and am quite happy to do so but I can see the problems that can be caused by systems such as the military devices going down.

Reliance on such devices and systems also makes the troops vulnerable to cyber attacks by the enemy and let us not even think about the satellites failing.

Rethinking the way we use technologies might be a good idea and especially as to how we rely on them.

© 2010