updated 9/18/2007 8:33:23 PM ET 2007-09-19T00:33:23

President Bush on Tuesday accepted the Pentagon’s decision to stop buying Global Positioning System satellites that can intentionally degrade the accuracy of civil signals used for a myriad of purposes — from tracking aircraft to finding missing skiers.

In May 2000, President Clinton abandoned the practice of deliberately degrading the accuracy of civilian navigation signals, a technique known as “selective availability.” This capability will no longer be present in the next generation of GPS satellites.

“While this action will not materially improve the performance of the system, it does reflect the United States’ strong commitment to users by reinforcing that this global utility can be counted on to support peaceful civil applications around the globe,” the Defense Department said in a statement.

The move coincides with the Air Force’s solicitation to purchase the next generation of GPS satellites known as GPS III.

GPS devices are used to steer cars, fly planes or find missing skiers and hikers. They are used in emergency response, mining and construction and exploration for natural resources as well.

The government said its former practice of deliberately degrading the accuracy of GPS signals protected national security by preventing adversaries from obtaining precise location measurements. When the Clinton administration abandoned the practice in 2000, it said the government never again would degrade GPS signals, but the U.S. has said since then that it still can prevent civilian receivers in specific regions from using GPS signals.

“All users, and their governments, have a stake in the future of GPS,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said in a statement. “The United States promotes international cooperation in the operation of civil global navigation satellite systems and continues to work to build international support for the protection of these signals from intentional interference and disruption.”

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