If American astronauts hitching a ride from the Russians to the International Space Station didn't ruffle enough feathers, there's growing concern about a proposal to use Moscow's satellites to transmit America's 911 emergency calls.
Wireless carriers and public safety organizations have pitched the idea of using Russia's system to the Federal Communications Commission, as part of their recommendations for improving 911 response. Part of the concern is that under the current system, operators have a hard time locating people calling from cell phones indoors -- and Russia's satellite system, called GLONASS, might be able to help.
But Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., head of a House Armed Services subcommittee, has raised concerns about the influence that might give Vladimir Putin's Russia over the U.S. system.
In a Jan. 21 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Rogers specifically questioned whether Putin might be able to use GLONASS "as a weapon" against the U.S., holding the 911 system "hostage" if he wanted.
He warned the U.S. could be poised to "disregard" the threat from Putin "so soon after Russia's illegal seizure of Ukrainian territory" -- a source of flaring tension between Russia and the United States.
"In view of the threat posed to the world by Russia's Vladimir Putin, it cannot be seriously considered that the U.S. would rely on a system in that dictator's control for its wireless 911 location capability," Rogers wrote, adding: "Our response to Russia's hybrid warfare, arms control cheating, illegal invasions of sovereign nations, and energy-based extortion must be broad-based isolation and counter-leverage."
The letter, obtained by FoxNews.com, was first reported by The Washington Times.
But Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) which is among the groups pushing the new plan, described such concerns as "scare tactics."
"They are spreading rumors that we are relying on the Russian government and doing harm, and on its face it's bogus," he told FoxNews.com. "They are projecting all this on a system that may be up and running in the future. It's hyperbole."
NENA and CTIA-The Wireless Association also put out a lengthy statement Thursday afternoon rejecting the notion that Russia might be able to exploit such an arrangement. The statement said any combination of satellites would work, so adding GLONASS would not give Russia "any leverage over U.S." 911 capabilities.
"Even if the GLONASS system were shut-down completely, handsets in locations with clear views of the sky could still calculate location estimates based solely on measurements of U.S. GPS satellite signals," the statement said.
The FCC plans to hold a meeting on Jan. 29, where the proposal could come up. The agency is reviewing the 911 service in light of difficulties first responders sometimes have finding people who call from wireless phones indoors under the United States' GPS system. Though the agency currently requires wireless providers to transmit location information to 911 call centers, there are still challenges in finding people -- particularly in large, multi-story buildings. The FCC wants wireless providers eventually to be able to transmit more accurate information.
Retired Rear Adm. David Simpson, head of the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, said in a statement the agency is "committed to protecting both public safety and national security as we continue to examine the input and issues in the proceeding, and will coordinate with our colleagues across the government to ensure that national security needs are addressed."
He underscored the urgency of a 911 overhaul in a blog post last month.
"The vast majority of 911 calls are from mobile phones, and we are not where we need to be on location accuracy for wireless 911 calls," he wrote. "This puts American lives at risk and requires swift action from the FCC, from wireless carriers, and from public safety officials."
The four largest wireless carriers, joined by two public safety organizations including NENA, proposed the plan, which among other components suggests using Russia's GLONASS satellite system to help locate 911 callers.
Fontes said the industry is interested in pursuing all manner of solutions for boosting location accuracy, including improved GPS, sensors and beacon technology -- but using other countries' capabilities should be on the table.
"If there is any proven -- heavy on the word proven -- and secure -- heavy on the word secure -- means of identifying where a 911 call is originating, I think any of those secure and proven systems should be considered by wireless providers," he said.
A Sprint representative reportedly said in a recent letter to FCC officials that their plan does not call for relying exclusively on the GLONASS system -- just using it to help improve location information.
According to The Washington Times, The Association of Public-Safety Communications also penned a recent letter to the FCC describing the national security warnings as "plainly false statements that stretch the imagination."
FoxNews.com's Kelley Vlahos contributed to this report.