Budget Cuts Threaten EU’s Galileo

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It doesn’t matter what country you live in. Budgets are being slashed all over the world due to tough economic times, which means cuts to a host of government programs, or even the end of them altogether. The European Union is no different, currently debating how they are going to spend €1 trillion ($1.35 trillion) over the next seven years. What cuts will take place is still up in the air, but some believe that Galileo, the European Global Navigation Satellite System, will be shut down.

 

Galileo is currently comprised of only four satellites, although it is planned to have a total of 30. It isn’t really necessary at all for Europe to have their own GNSS system, and in fact, is just like our GPS system. Then why are they building Galileo at all? Supporters of the project say that it is critical to Europe to have a GPS system of their very own. Their website states, “Galileo gives users a new and reliable alternative, run by civil, not military authorities.” The website lists European independence and extended GPS coverage in northern Europe, where they have trouble acquiring signal, as other big reasons for the development of Galileo.

 

In the past few years, it hasn’t been working out according to plan – or budget. Andrew Faulds, a writer at Ars Technica, said, “The project has been over-promised, overdue, and over budget in recent years.” he points to a 2007 Wired article that stated the project would be completed and fully operational by 2012. However, that just hasn’t happened. In 2011, an executive at a German satellite company told the American Embassy in Berlin that the Galileo project was “a stupid idea,” and was fired after the information was exposed on WikiLeaks.

 

It may not be an entirely “stupid idea,” but many do truly see it this way. I think The New York Times’ recent article addressing the issue said it best: “Washington also asked why, when many European nations were increasingly unable to fulfill their military obligations as members of NATO because of defense cuts, they wanted to splash billions on a project that replicated an existing system paid for by the United States.”

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