In this monthly column, Defense Daily highlights individuals from across the government, industry and academia whose efforts contribute daily to national defense, from the program managers to the human resource leaders, to the engineers and logistics officers.
David Grossman is the executive director of the GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA), which speaks for the GPS industry in Washington, D.C. The organization was founded in 2013 to support GPS and, in this role, Grossman tells the industry’s story to policymakers and regulators.
How did you get involved in the defense industry or community?
My career started in telecommunications and technology policy, beginning with an internship at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 17 years ago. In the years since, I have held roles in both the public and private sectors, eventually as the senior advisor and legislative director to the Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, Representative Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) and then as Chief of Staff to then FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. During my time in public service, I played a key role in discussions with the DoD and other federal agencies around the reallocation and/or sharing of spectrum. I was also able to focus on policies aimed at closing the digital divide, a topic that I am particularly passionate about.
It is that passion for ubiquitous access to technology that drew me to GPSIA and the opportunity to be an advocate for an industry with strong bipartisan relationships. As a public utility that is globally available, GPS plays an essential role in all communities, whether for defense purposes, precision agriculture in rural communities, or the many GPS-enabled technologies that help smart cities continue to innovate.
What are some challenges you faced working through your career?
It is my nature to think creatively and outside the box. However, change is rarely met with universal acceptance – and nowhere is that clearer than in Washington, where tradition is deeply embedded in the culture. Balancing these competing forces has been a challenge that I have tackled throughout my career. The fortunate thing is that any hurdle can be overcome by building mutual respect and leading by example. I am grateful to have worked alongside exceptionally talented individuals who demonstrated qualities I value in the workplace, like a strong work ethic, passion for the issues, and the ability to provide clear and direct feedback. Channeling these values has been invaluable through my career.
Did you feel like you always had sufficient mentors and leaders to help guide you? Why/why not?
I am incredibly lucky to have had terrific mentors within the communications policy and regulatory space. Two in particular that have helped to guide me throughout my career: Julie Kearney, who I worked for at the Consumer Technology Association, and Jason Friedrich, one of my professors during college.
Both of have been a source of continuous guidance, serving as a sounding board as I have progressed in my career.
How do you work to be a mentor yourself to younger counterparts?
Having exemplary mentors in my own life, I value being able to provide mentorship when and where I can. I’ve been invited to speak to students at various schools over my career and was also an active participant in the FCC’s mentor-mentee program. In government, both on Capitol Hill and the FCC, I have also had the opportunity to manage more than a dozen interns and fellows at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. I have stayed in touch with many of them as they have progressed in their careers, serving as a reference and offering career guidance when I can.
What does it mean to be successful in your career field?
As an industry organization, I am enormously proud of what we have achieved over the last two years. Among the highlights include supporting last year’s launch of the bipartisan House and Senate GPS Caucus, led by Senators Duckworth and Ernst and Reps. Loebsack and Bacon; organizing GPSIA’s inaugural “GPS Tech Demo Day” on Capitol Hill; hosting, speaking on and/or moderating more than a half dozen panel sessions including at South by Southwest (SXSW); and establishing an ongoing series of blog posts covering topics ranging from GPS’ role in public safety to assisting the visually impaired and advancing 5G.
In December, our membership grew, with the addition of Collins Aerospace. As one of the leading aerospace companies in the world, Collins has a long and deep history with GPS technology, beginning with the first GPS signal ever received from the roof of their facilities in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Most recently, we announced Lockheed Martin as the newest GPSIA member. As the prime contractor helping the U.S. Space Force modernize the GPS constellation with its new, more powerful GPS III and GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) satellites, this was an important and symbolic moment for the organization. The Lockheed Martin team’s wealth of experience in both GPS space and ground systems will help our association and industry move boldly into the future.
While I am deeply proud of GPSIA’s accomplishments, success is more than achievements. To me, three key factors define the success of our organization:
- Enhancing awareness and recognition of GPSIA.
- Increasing outreach and education to policymakers and regulators on the criticality of GPS.
- Expanding our membership base and coalition of allies.
What are some of the under-appreciated positions in the defense field, the unsung heroes or essential cogs in the machine that help the job get done with less recognition?
Hands down, the accolades go to the men and women of the U.S Air Force’s (now Space Force) 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2 SOPS) based at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. These are the individuals that keep the GPS satellites continuously available, reliable, and accurate. Team Blackjack, as they are nicknamed, manages the operation of these satellites 24/7 for the benefits of billions of commercial, civilian and military users worldwide. They are absolutely essential.
How has the culture changed around diversity within your career?
One area where I have seen positive change is the growing focus on STEM education. GPSIA member Garmin, for example, has established the Garmin Engineering Day Camp, a summer program geared toward giving freshmen and sophomore high school students a first-hand perspective on electrical, mechanical and software engineering. Another GPSIA member John Deere, through its Inspire program, is preparing middle and high school students for the jobs of the future. Yet another member, Lockheed Martin, has volunteers regularly visiting schools to talk to about GPS, space and career opportunities in the aerospace industry. Introducing technology to a diverse group of young people early on is critical to shaping a stronger workforce and empowering the decision makers for tomorrow.
Personally, I am proud to have played a role in launching the Congressional App Challenge, a program which encourages students to learn coding and ultimately seek careers in computer science.
What do you see as the future of your sector in national defense?
The future of GPS in supporting national defense remains bright. It is a critical mission area for the U.S. Space Force. Right now, the Space Force is committed to a major modernization of the entire Global Positioning System, including the space, ground and user segments. In space, we see the Space Force adding new technology and capabilities to the constellation by replacing legacy GPS satellites going back to the 1990s with Lockheed Martin’s new, more powerful and more capable GPS III and IIIF satellites. Technology has greatly changed since the DoD launched the first GPS satellite in 1978. The new generation of GPS III satellites are more resilient, and will provide three times greater accuracy benefiting all users and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capability benefiting military users. In addition, these Military Code, or M-Code-capable satellites, also advance the availability the secure military signals to help ensure our armed forces can complete their missions safely. GPS has been the backbone of much of the defense industry’s communication and strategic efforts – and will only grow to be more important.