Trajectory Magazine We are the official publication of the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) – the nonprofit, educational organization supporting the geospatial intelligence tradecraft Mon, 19 Mar 2018 16:16:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Trajectory Magazine 32 32 127732085 Weekly GEOINT Community News Mon, 19 Mar 2018 16:02:02 +0000 CACI Offers $7.2B for CSRA; NGA Appoints New West Executive; SpaceX Wins Air Force Satellite Support Contract; LGS Innovations Awarded NOAA Contract; More

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CACI Offers $7.2B for CSRA

CACI offered to acquire CSRA for $7.2 billion in a bid to form a combined entity. CACI’s proposal comes a month after General Dynamics agreed to acquire CSRA for approximately $6.8 billion in cash and $2.8 billion in assumed net debt in a move to establish a combined government IT services provider.

General Dynamics said Sunday it has received all the needed regulatory clearances and has funds to close the deal in early April. General Dynamics noted its offer started March 5 and is slated to expire April 2CSRA confirmed it received an unsolicited offer from CACI and its board will consult its financial and legal advisers to consider and assess the second offer.

NGA Appoints New West Executive

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) announced the appointment of Brett Markham as the agency’s new west executive and deputy associate director for operations. Markham will play a major role in integrating all activities across the Next NGA West facility in St. Louis. Markham will oversee the NGA Operations Center, the Office of NGA Defense, the Office of Expeditionary Operations, and NGA leadership at the three National Reconnaissance Office Aerospace Data facilities.

SpaceX Wins U.S. Air Force Satellite Support Contract

SpaceX won a contract to produce a launch vehicle and provide support services such as mission integration and spaceflight readiness testing to a GPS III satellite for the U.S. Air Force. The contract has a potential value of $290.6 million over two years and was awarded as part of USAF’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. The Air Force received two offers for the firm-fixed-price contract and may exercise options for two more GPS III launch mission services.

LGS Innovations Awarded NOAA Contract

LGS Innovations was awarded $8.5 million toward a potential five-year, $204 million contract to develop and maintain a radio frequency interference monitoring system for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The system will reduce the possibility of frequency interference from other carriers sharing the spectrum with NOAA’s satellites. LGS will provide real-time detection of interference events, classify the interference data, and provide notes to NOAA and other wireless carriers.

Orbital ATK to Build ISR Aircraft for Afghanistan, Landsat 9 for NASA

Orbital ATK was awarded an $86.4 million contract to manufacture AC-208 intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft for Afghanistan’s air force. The AC-208 is designed for counterinsurgency missions and is armed with guided rockets and/or AGM-114 Hellfire missile payloads. The arrangement is part of the U.S. Air Force’s “pseudo” foreign military sales contract.

Orbital also received approval to begin development on NASA’s Landsat 9 satellite. A comprehensive Critical Design Review confirmed the mission’s adherence to all technical and performance requirements. The spacecraft is planned for launch in late 2020, and will be operated by the U.S. Geological Survey once in orbit.

Raytheon and Palantir Win Spots on U.S. Army Ground Systems Contract

Raytheon and Palantir Technologies were awarded positions on a potential 10-year, $876 million contract to support the U.S. Army’s Distributed Common Ground System. The companies will develop a combined hardware and software solution to support training, security, data management, and usability.

The Space Alliance Finalizes Investment in Spaceflight Industries

The Space Alliance formed by Thales Alenia Space  and Telespazio announced it has purchased a minority stake in Spaceflight Industries, the company behind BlackSky. Together, the parties will deploy BlackSky’s constellation of high-revisit Earth imaging satellites, the first four of which will launch within the next year. This funding ensures the production of another 20 small sats planned for launch by 2020.

Additionally, Thales Alenia Space and Spaceflight Industries are partnering to create a joint venture called LeoStella LLC, which will focus on manufacturing small sats at scale for the BlackSky constellation. LeoStella will begin operation this year.

Photo Credit: NASA

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The Importance of Diversity in Cartography Fri, 16 Mar 2018 15:53:34 +0000 Exploring the meaningful influence of female and minority mapmakers

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Female explorers, soldiers, and volunteers have played leading roles in many defining moments throughout the storied history of geospatial science. Sacagawea guided Lewis and Clark’s groundbreaking expedition to survey the western frontier. The Military Mapping Maidens charted roads, land contours, and other strategic locations for the Army Map Service during World War II. STEM pioneers Mary Sears and Marie Tharp are the mothers of modern oceanography and maritime navigation. Yet, the geospatial workforce remains dominated by men.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found in 2014 that, though cartography was projected to grow nearly 30 percent in the next decade, women comprised only 38 percent of its labor force. A GIS Lounge job survey from the same year collected demographic information from 1,186 GIS analysts, developers, managers, executives, and more. Of the respondents, just 37 percent were female.

How does that gender imbalance effect the mapping world? Mainly, it means maps are more likely to address problems visible to the people who create them. For example, male and female responses might differ significantly if asked to map safe walking routes through a city. Or a male open map contributor might fail to make note of women’s health services while tagging healthcare providers in a foreign municipality. Similarly, a heterosexual analyst living in a progressive society might not think to map LGBTQ-safe spaces while tagging locations in a less tolerant country. If diverse perspectives are applied during a map’s creation, the map will be helpful to more diverse populations.

Sarah Holder’s CityLab article “Who Maps the World?” investigates gender equity in mapmaking through the lens of the crowdsourced OpenStreetMap (OSM) project. While OSM volunteers are predominantly male, one area is particularly popular for female cartographers: humanitarian efforts and disaster relief. Participants in OSM’s humanitarian field projects (which work directly with people from the communities being mapped) are 48 percent female, indicating a draw toward work marketed as service-related rather than technological.

Humanitarian relief efforts, more so than other mapping applications (such as self-driving vehicles or smart-city expansion), are intended for more diverse populations. For example, mapping areas of highly concentrated malaria transmission in Southern Africa and Southeast Asia; mapping non-camp refugee data in the Middle East to improve service delivery; or simply mapping infrastructure in densely-populated developing cities like Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

In nations with less social parity, the information delivered by these humanitarian mapping projects has life-changing implications. Women in Africa, South America, and other parts of the world are often forced to either travel long distances for services such as HIV testing and counseling, cancer screenings, and OB-GYN services, or to forgo those services altogether. Many times, these services are available locally, but are not advertised or marked in existing maps. Accurate, up-to-date maps containing information pertinent to women’s health can prevent deaths or injuries as a result of HIV/AIDS and maternal complications—the top two causes of death globally for women ages 15-44.

The Women in GIS organization created a story map using Esri’s ArcGIS platform that visualizes where women work with geospatial information systems around the world. Of the thousands of women represented by this map’s data, the majority live in the United States. To achieve equal (and holistic) cartographic representation, the global mapping community should embrace and uplift women mapmakers with the goal of achieving workforce parity.

Photo Credit: Women in GIS

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The CIA’s Digital Future Thu, 15 Mar 2018 20:18:04 +0000 USGIF hosts special GEOINTeraction event at SXSW

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USGIF hosted a special edition of its bimonthly GEOINTeraction Tuesday networking event—calling it GEOINTeraction Monday for its departure from the regularly scheduled weekday—on March 12 in conjunction with the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas.

Speakers were Teresa Smetzer, director of Digital Futures for the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) Digital Innovation Directorate, and Dr. Bob Metcalf, the inventor of Ethernet and director of the UT Austin Innovation Center.

Smetzer said the purpose of Digital Futures is “to accelerate the identification and adoption of industry-leading technology and processes to solve mission problems.”

“Sounds pretty simple, right? But it is a pretty dramatic shift from the way the government typically thinks,” she said, referring to long and complicated contracting practices.

Digital Futures’ goal is to modernize, advance, and transform the CIA mission by leveraging a network of commercial, industry, venture capital, academic, and partner agency expertise. The office also has an Innovation Hub in Silicon Valley it uses as an outpost to identify and assess potential technologies.

Smetzer listed three primary concerns facing Digital Futures: the exponential growth in the velocity, variety, and volume of data; the emergence of disruptive technologies—both as an opportunity for better data management and analysis as well as a threat in the hands of adversaries; and the existence of legacy systems and processes that inhibit innovation and agility.

“We’re different in that we start with the mission challenge first,” Smetzer said. “We’re not looking for cool new technologies, the next big widget, or something that’s really a solution in search of a problem.”

Smetzer said the CIA is particularly interested in artificial intelligence and machine learning technology such as image recognition, segmentation, anomaly detection, and optimization.

Though cloud computing is no longer considered a buzz-phrase, Smetzer said it remains “critical,” referring to the Intelligence Community’s (IC) private clouds on Amazon Web Services.

“This is game-changing,” she said. “ … All 16 [intelligence] agencies now have access to common data, common tools. … And we have the flexibility to turn compute on a dime.”

Smetzer said such accomplishments in cloud computing set the stage for what can the IC can achieve in the future.

The GEOINT Ecosystem

Metcalf spoke next, saying though he is not a GEOINT expert, he is a strong supporter of the field, which he described as an exciting and innovative ecosystem.

“There’s business intelligence, there’s artificial intelligence—why not geospatial intelligence,” Metcalf said.

He compared GEOINT to Ethernet, noting how sensors, computers, and satellites enable the GEOINT ecosystem, and recalling how the internet and semi-conductors provided a platform of technologies that led to the development of Ethernet.

Yet another essential element of a strong ecosystem is demand—just as personal computers generated demand for Ethernet.

“In this system platforms will emerge,” he said. “In [the GEOINT] ecosystem of which you’re a part someone is going to start developing standards and platforms to support killer apps.”

He added that for killer apps to emerge several standards of different types would be necessary, and encouraged the audience to be mindful of this when looking toward the future.

Headline Image: CIA Director of Digital Futures Teresa Smetzer addresses the crowd March 12 at USGIF’s SXSW networking event at The Rattle Inn. 

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Advances and Challenges for Small Sats Wed, 14 Mar 2018 19:52:04 +0000 Industry and government experts discuss evolving ecosystem, hurdles, and what’s on the horizon for small sats at USGIF workshop

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As small sat technologies continue to progress, a robust industrial ecosystem is forming, and the next five to 10 years will see more small sats used for imaging, weather, communications, and experimentation, according to community experts at USGIF’s fourth Small Satellite Workshop. Increasingly, the technology is being looked to as a complementary layer to large-scale systems and a necessary approach to space-based resiliency and deterrence.

The workshop, sponsored by Planet, was held March 6-7 at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) Eastern campus in Springfield, Va. The program was developed in collaboration with the USGIF’s Small Satellite Working Group and titled “Evolving Capabilities.” The first day was unclassified and the second was classified.

In a keynote address, Deborah Lee James, the 23rd Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, shared reflections and predictions: “We’re only just at the cusp of the Space Renaissance period we have now entered,” she said, calling the present a time of innovation and investor excitement, with promises for new space exploration and new ways of doing business. 

Advancements and Use Cases

The unclassified agenda included three panel discussions featuring a range of industry experts. In a panel on small sat advancements, James Doggett, a program manager with HawkEye 360, said the small sat ecosystem is seeing specialization at every level, which represents a “maturation of the industry” and allows players to focus on specific products rather than infrastructure needs.

For example, water-based propulsion is expanding the envelope of available missions, and ground-stations-as-a-service is on the horizon, according to Doggett.

Al League, chief innovation officer with Radiant Solutions/Space Systems Loral, said small sats represent not only the democratization of space, but also the democratization of information. League listed on-orbit services such as the ability to repurpose, refuel, and restore systems in space as the next evolution in the ecosystem.

As the technology advances, new use cases continue to be discovered as well. Stephane Germain, CEO of GHG Satellite, shared how his company uses small sats to monitor industrial emissions for commercial clients. For example, hydroelectric companies seek to demonstrate their emissions are low and therefore qualify for green power contracts.  

In a later panel focused on analytic use cases, Julie Baker, vice president of operations for Ursa Space Systems—which brings data from multiple suppliers together to provide analytics-as-a-service—said small sat data has many applications for the oil and gas, energy, and financial sectors. But, she warned, “There’s a huge gap between analytics and what customers actually need.”

Melanie Corcoran, who manages government business POCs for Descartes Labs, further articulated the need to provide direct insights, asking the audience, “If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how much is an answer worth?”

Corcoran described how Descartes is providing turnkey analysis for trading.

“It turns out Wall Street and the Intelligence Community have the same needs, they just go about it in different ways,” she said.

However, Corcoran said, having the capabilities but not the ability to deliver them in way consistent with government security is “one of the biggest stumbling blocks to unleashing the power [of small sats].”

Emerging Challenges

Another panel discussed a variety of additional small sat-related challenges. Randy Leiter, founder and CEO of Aerolight Technologies, outlined challenges in manufacturing and development, including part selection, supply chain integrity, and systems engineering assurance—all of which result in longer lead times. According to Leiter, there is a lot of interest in small sats among suppliers, but currently a limited market.

Tony Lin, a spectrum lawyer with Hogan Lovells, said it takes about a year for a new satellite to be assigned a frequency.

“It’s hard for folks in Silicon Valley who work at the speed of the internet to come to D.C. and work at the speed of government,” he said. However, he continued, many experts are looking to solve the “spectrum crunch” and are exploring alternative ways to get data to the ground.

Kevin Pomfret, a partner with Williams Mullen, outlined geospatial law and policy concerns including privacy, retirement and disposal of systems, and intellectual property disputes when products are created with data from many different sources.

“As small sat technology pushes the limits … it calls for new processes to be put in place,” Pomfret said, noting law and policy do not advance as quickly as capabilities do.

Frank Backes, vice president of business development with Kratos, said space assets are an attractive target for cyber attacks, and emphasized the need to apply the same technology used to protect ground-based communications links for space-to-ground communications.

Small Sats and the DoD

Two U.S. Department of Defense representatives gave unclassified presentations. Maj. Steven Pugh, program lead for space enterprise prototypes, advanced systems and development with the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMEC), gave an overview of the new Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC) Other Transaction (OT) authority.

OT contract vehicles are intended to foster rapid contracting, open collaboration between industry and government, and increased participation from smaller, nontraditional businesses. In November, SMC selected Advanced Technology International (ATI) to manage the SpEC OT and accelerate space-related prototype development, including small sats.

Pugh described OTs as a lower risk, lower cost approach to space innovation.

“The highest levels of leadership in the Air Force are looking at how we get solutions that may have more risk but a lot more reward,” he said. He added that although OTs are intended to attract nontraditional contractors, including those who may not have previous government experience, they aren’t meant to disregard larger, traditional contractors.

“We want to have partnerships built and have an avenue to do that,” Pugh said.

To date, the ATI-led consortium has attracted more than 115 members, and ATI has released two SpEC requirements: one for small sat tactics, techniques, and procedures; and another for overhead persistent infrared surveillance.

Though the Air Force has authorized a $100 million ceiling for SpEC, Pugh posited the extensive interest in the program might lead to an increase.

Later in the day, Dr. John Stopher, director of the Principal DoD Space Advisor Staff, who is responsible for integrating and overseeing all national security space capabilities, highlighted the need to assess and convey mission value with regard to small sats.

“I’m not against [small sats], but have found when people talk about small sats they don’t often talk about mission,” Stopher said. “I want to focus on what our mission is, and if small sats can do it, that’s great.”

He pointed to the most recent National Space Strategy, which emphasizes, among other things, a need for mission assurance, resiliency, and reconstitution.

“These are areas where there might be some opportunities for small sats,” Pugh said, adding that battlefield management, which is today performed by Boeing’s JSTARS, may be another area of opportunity. “Moving that to space is something we’re very seriously considering.”

Photo Credit: NASA JPL

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Weekly GEOINT Community News Mon, 12 Mar 2018 16:47:19 +0000 BlackSky Completes its First Next-Gen Small Sat; Leidos Awarded Two Army Contracts; Maxar’s SSL Launches Communications Satellite; More

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BlackSky Completes its First Next-Gen Small Sat

Spaceflight Industries’ BlackSky announced the completion of a next-generation earth imaging satellite called Global-1—the first of four BlackSky small sats scheduled to launch in the next year. Global-1 provides 1-meter resolution, improved image quality and precision, and quicker turnaround after tasking. The Global series will join the constellation of remote sensing spacecraft accessible to BlackSky geospatial platform users.

Leidos Awarded Two Army Contracts

Leidos won a $200 million contract to continue geospatial intelligence support for the U.S. Army for up to the next five years. The company will provide technology and support to operations, research, and development for the Army Geospatial Center at Fort Belvoir in Alexandria, Va.

Leidos also received a potential five-year, $230 million task order from the General Services Administration to install C4ISR systems on aerospace equipment and weapons for the Army. Additionally, Leidos will provide equipment and transportation to the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center.

Vencore-Keypoint-DXC Merger to Form Perspecta

Vencore, Keypoint Government Solutions, and DXC Technology’s U.S. Public Sector business will merge under the name Perspecta once the transaction is finalized. Vencore president and CEO Mac Curtis will serve as CEO of Perspecta. The company will provide federal, state, and local government clients with IT services and platforms, and is expected to officially launch in May.

Maxar and DigitalGlobe Celebrate First Anniversary of News Bureau Program

Maxar Technologies last week celebrated the completion of its News Bureau program’s first year of operations. The News Bureau is a partnership with global news and media outlets that supplies high-resolution DigitalGlobe imagery and analytics for investigations of social injustice. Since its creation in 2017, the program has helped expose violence against Muslims in Myanmar, seafood trade run by slave labor in Southeast Asia, and the local effects of war in Iraq and Syria.

Maxar’s SSL Launches Communications Satellite

Maxar Technologies’ spacecraft business SSL announced last week the launch of the Hispasat 30W-6 communications satellite. After completing post-launch maneuvers and propulsion to geostationary orbit, the satellite now begins a 15-year telecom mission for Europe and the Americas. The Hispasat payload includes a cutting-edge photonics receiver that will enable enhanced performance and flexibility.

Peer Intel

The White House announced the nomination of Lisa Porter, In-Q-Tel’s executive VP and the director of IQT Labs, to serve as deputy undersecretary for research and engineering at the Defense Department. Porter has significant experience in the federal space, including leadership positions with IARPA, DARPA, and NASA.

Photo Credit: BlackSky

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The AI of Tomorrow Fri, 09 Mar 2018 16:19:30 +0000 How human-machine teaming, cybersecurity, and battlefield singularity may shape the next decade of defense.

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“An unmanned systems future is inevitable for just about every facet of our lives. We need to deal with it head on,” Brig. Gen. Frank Kelly told the audience at Defense One and Nextgov’s Genius Machines: the Next Decade of Artificial Intelligence event March 7.

AI as it exists today is considered “narrow” in the scope of its applications. Programs such as Google Translate and personalized advertisement selectors are intelligent and effective, but ultra-specific and incapable of fulfilling more than one purpose. To truly harness the power of intelligent systems, industry and government are looking over the horizon to “general” AI capable of tackling wider, more diverse problem sets. General AI could manage a baseball team or help fix a damaged marriage without highly-labeled or pre-defined data.

Defense One technology editor and moderator Patrick Tucker brought up the question of trust: “How do we trust this opaque, complex process to deliver the correct insights?”

The idea isn’t to build artificial systems and let them run amok unsupervised. Instead, companies and agencies are focusing on collaboration between AI and individual analysts, a relationship analogous to that of a police officer and a K-9 unit puppy. The officer raises the puppy based on his own experiences in the field, teaching and building trust with the dog as it becomes more effective. The pup learns how to complete tasks for its human operator and, eventually, the two form a successful team.

But unlike a German shepherd, an AI’s decisions are traceable to the human-made decisions that taught the machine how to react in the first place. Seeing the thought process that led an AI to its conclusion will reassure a user the machine was trained off his or her own work and its analysis is trustworthy.

“We’ve found that the human responders over time begin to build more trust with the AI. Sometimes [people] don’t trust things until we try them out,” said Dr. Edward Chow, manager of the Civil Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Some decisions, though, are still off limits for AI programs, such as the decision to take lethal (or potentially lethal) action. The U.S. military has had doctrine in place requiring a “human in the loop” on all potentially life-threatening decisions since 2012. The pace of AI development and the increasing likelihood of reaching “singularity on the battlefield”—a point when battle gets too fast-paced for the human mind to keep up and AI must make lethal decisions—puts pressure on this doctrine. This emphasizes the importance of maintaining security and control of these systems. If highly aware algorithms capable of exercising lethal force fell into malicious hands they could wreak havoc on civilians.

The current landscape of cybersecurity is offensively asymmetrical, where attacking is easier than defending, noted Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity Director Dr. Jason Matheny. System insecurity is a topic IARPA is anxious about, even more so than the popular idea of a sentient, self-serving AI.

“We’re much less worried about ‘Terminator’ and Skynet scenarios than we are about digital ‘Flubber’ scenarios—really badly engineered systems that are vulnerable to error or attack from outside,” Matheny said, citing easily spoofable image classifiers and data poisoning attacks.

These are uncharted waters for law enforcement and defense communities. If a program is built poorly and goes on a rogue cybercrime spree or is built for nefarious purposes (such as ransomware or worms), who is at fault? Is it the program itself? Is it the program’s creator?

“We’re going to go after the person who wrote it,” said Trent Teyema, FBI’s chief of cyber readiness and cyber chief operating officer. As systems become smarter and stronger, it will be harder to ascribe fault to human creators whose algorithms act in unintended ways. And as for the AI? “It’s not about how we arrest it, but how do we stop it,” Teyema said.

Photo Credit: Getty

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NGA to Reveal New Acquisition Approach at GEOINT 2018 Wed, 07 Mar 2018 18:39:53 +0000 Agency plans unprecedented level of engagement for Tampa event

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The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) intends to unveil a new approach to acquisition at GEOINT 2018, according to agency deputy director Justin Poole.

Poole spoke last week at USGIF’s GEOINT 2018 Sneak Peek breakfast about what technologies and capabilities NGA will be looking for as well as what the agency plans to showcase at the Symposium—to be held April 22-25 in Tampa, Fla.

NGA Deputy Director Justin Poole speaks to attendees at USGIF’s GEOINT 2018 Sneak Peek breakfast.

Among the Government Pavilion panel discussions NGA is scheduled to host in the exhibit hall will be a discussion led by Poole on NGA’s pending acquisition restructure.

“I’m looking forward to sharing with you and the Symposium crowd a new approach I’m taking to acquisition,” Poole told the Sneak Peek audience, adding that much thought went into what to do with the agency’s component acquisition executive (CAE) role. With Poole now appointed CAE, “we’re overhauling it,” he said.

Agency Attendance

NGA is slated to send 260 employees to the Symposium, the most ever, with the exception of GEOINT 2015, which took place in Washington, D.C. Each NGA representative will be assigned certain booths to visit, and Poole said each booth would receive at least one visitor from the agency.

“We have 75 folks from the local team in Tampa attending,” Poole said, adding employees from around the globe, including Denver, Austin, Belgium, and Australia would be in attendance as well. “We’ve also put the word out to NSG members in uniform in the Tampa area that they can attend the Symposium and GEOINT Foreword for free.”

Poole recalled how earlier in his career he was unable to attend the GEOINT Symposium. While the week of the Symposium was quiet at NGA, he and his colleagues would brace for the week after, when those who attended would return energized and with long lists of people to call and meetings to set up. He cited that “vibe” as consistent with the event year after year, and as one of the reasons the agency continues to grow its Symposium presence.

“All NGA employees who attend will be filling out a report on their engagement in the exhibit hall to report back to leadership,” Poole said. “That information will be consolidated and used to facilitate further engagements.”

  • To learn more about GEOINT 2018 or to register, visit

General Session

On Monday, April 23, NGA Director Robert Cardillo will give a keynote address during the GEOINT 2018 general session. According to Poole, the director plans this year to emphasize the blend of art and science that makes GEOINT so special.

Government Pavilion Presentations

The agency will host a total of five panel presentations on the Government Pavilion Stage, including Poole’s discussion of acquisition reform. Associate Director of Operations Maj. Gen. Linda Urrutia-Varhall, will lead a discussion titled, “The GEOINT Operational Mindset in a Multi-lateral World.” Ellen Ardrey, the agency’s associate director for support, will lead panel on “GEOINT Training Standards.” Dr. Anthony Vinci, the agency’s newly appointed chief technology officer, will host a panel titled, “From Data to AI.” Dustin Gard-Weiss, NGA’s associate director for enterprise, will host a discussion on “Challenges and Opportunities of Operationalizing the Enterprise.”

Training Sessions

NGA will host three GEOINT 2018 training and educations sessions:

A Seminar on ABI, SOM, and Modeling intended for junior- to mid-level analysts or anyone interested in learning more about NGA’s analytic methods; Government Business 101 for businesses new to the government contracting world, small business leaders, entrepreneurs, and students; and Crowdsourcing & Citizen Convergence for Disaster Relief & Recovery in partnership with GEOHuntsville.

The NGA Booth

 NGA plans to showcase stories, experts, and some of its newest initiatives in the exhibit hall, according to Poole. The agency’s schedule of booth events will be posted on its website soon, and is expected to include kiosk demos, a recruiting station, an industry interaction station, and speaker spotlights.

The speaker spotlights are intended to be industry-focused discussions with NGA personnel and to provide opportunities for direct Q&A. Potential topics to be featured include an introduction to NGA’s new Office of Ventures and Innovation, CRADAs, public-private partnerships, and the nascent Data Corps program.

“If you’re on the fence [about attending the Symposium,] it’s definitely worth it,” Poole said. “It’s great to be around that many colleagues who show a passion for GEOINT.”

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Weekly GEOINT Community News Mon, 05 Mar 2018 16:52:13 +0000 Accenture Opens Innovation Hub in Columbus; GSA Partners with Carahsoft for IT solutions; NGA Partners with Radiant Solutions for Imagery Challenge; Much More

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Accenture Opens Innovation Hub in Columbus

Accenture last week opened an innovation hub in Columbus, Ohio, to help clients modernize their applications and take advantage of disruptive IT trends and technologies. With the move, Accenture will add 200 specialized tech jobs to the Columbus community and expand its U.S. apprenticeship program to more than 100 individuals by the end of the year. The hub is the third of 10 new hubs Accenture announced last year, including locations in Boston, New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

GSA Partners with Carahsoft for IT solutions

The General Services Administration signed a government-wide agreement to procure IT services and ServiceNow software through Carahsoft. The deal is part of Carahsoft’s nine-year, $2 billion supply schedule contract and includes cybersecurity, customer service, and human resource service management.

NGA Partners with Radiant Solutions for Imagery Challenge

Maxar Technology’s Radiant Solutions announced a contract with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to provide a dataset featuring more than one million labeled objects within high-resolution DigitalGlobe satellite imagery for the 2018 DIUx xView Detection Challenge. NGA is partnering with Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) on the challenge, in which contestants will train their own object identification algorithms using the DigitalGlobe dataset. These efforts support the application of machine learning to security and humanitarian missions such as environmental monitoring and improving infrastructure.

Raytheon to Produce Targeting Systems for U.S. Air Force and France

Raytheon received a maximum $87.1 million contract to supply the U.S. Air Force and the French military with 44 multi-spectral targeting system sensors, along with spares, replaceable units, and relevant data. The contract work will fall to the ISR systems group within Raytheon’s space and airborne systems unit.

Leidos Awarded Air Force C2ISR Platform Management Contract

Leidos received a five-year, $25.4 million contract to provide software maintenance and modification for the U.S. Air Force’s Automated Logistics Management Support system. The platform monitors the supply chain of command and control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance weapons systems.

LGS Innovations Wins Army Network Modernization Project

LGS Innovations was awarded a five-year, $81.5 million Network Modernization (NETMOD) Pacific data project with the U.S. Army Program Executive Officer Enterprise Information Systems Power Projection Enablers team. The project seeks to develop a secure network with few entry/exit points connecting 100 sites throughout the Asia-Pacific region. LGS will provide engineering, installation, and testing, as well as delivery of NIPR network services to all Army installations in the Pacific Command.

exactEarth AIS Payload Launches on Paz Satellite

exactEarth announced the launch of a high-performance AIS payload on the Spanish Paz radar satellite using the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The Paz satellite will be positioned to capture high-quality vessel data to be used alongside SAR imagery for maritime surveillance. The AIS system, called EV-8, completes exactEarth’s first generation satellite constellation.

Peer Intel

Peraton named The Honorable Jeffrey K. Harris, chairman of USGIF’s Board of Directors and former director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), to the company’s advisory board. Harris served as the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space and Director of the NRO from 1994-1996. While at the NRO, he was credited with managing the integration of NRO programs into three functional directorates and leading efforts to consolidate signals intelligence systems in a first-of-its kind partnership between the NRO and the National Security Agency.

Photo Credit: Raytheon

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The Borders of Cyberspace Fri, 02 Mar 2018 17:03:01 +0000 Supreme Court case Microsoft v. U.S. holds major implications for rights to data stored internationally

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As the internet permeates more and more of everyday life and the cyber and physical worlds continue to intersect in new ways, legislators are faced with the difficult responsibility of defining law and policy within this complex domain.

In 2013, a wrinkle in cyber policy appeared that the Supreme Court is still ironing out today. A New York district county judge served Microsoft a search warrant requesting email records and information from a particular user account as part of a domestic drug-trafficking investigation. Microsoft responded by turning over the account information and other metadata stored on servers at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash., but declined to cede the actual email content because it wasn’t hosted on United States soil. Instead, the data was stored at a facility in Dublin, Ireland, where the account was created. Microsoft claimed U.S. law enforcement had no jurisdiction over foreign data and would have to go through Irish authorities to obtain access. The U.S. hoped to bypass those cumbersome proceedings because Microsoft is an American company and could relocate the data in question to a server in the U.S. The resulting case, dubbed Microsoft v. U.S, was heard by the Supreme Court February 28. A ruling is expected by the end of the Court’s term in June.

The U.S. does maintain a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) with Ireland that provides an established process for legal requests such as this one that take place on foreign soil. Ireland has also expressed willingness to cooperate through that process. But after five years of appellate court hearings and reversals, it appears the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has its sights set beyond the initial few emails.

Rather, the government hopes to win the case and establish legal precedent that grants law enforcement the conditional right (like in the case of a criminal investigation) to seize data owned by American companies regardless of where the host server is located. This is especially desirable because companies often fracture their data and store it on multiple servers around the world. Instead of dealing with multiple foreign governments and their disparate data laws, the DOJ aims to expedite the process by going directly to the company in question. The U.S. believes a case victory would mean fast, easy access to evidence related to serious crimes and national security threats, WIRED reports.

On the other hand, Microsoft is concerned such policy could deter foreign customers who don’t want their data at the disposal of U.S. law enforcement, according to The Verge. Some argue that a ruling in favor of the U.S. might mean other countries like Russia or China could issue similar requests for communication data stored in the U.S—requests potentially lined with malicious intent.

As of yet, most people don’t consider digital data in terms of location or geopolitical boundaries. But with the advent of the cloud, the onus is on policymakers to more boldly define the borders of cyberspace. For example, do the established geographic and legal boundaries of the physical world extend to cyber? Does digital data have the same protections as paper data?

Microsoft v. U.S. will take a step toward answering these questions, but runs the risk of dividing the IT and cyber communities. A victory for Microsoft could enable the safeguarding of data stored overseas, especially that related to various types of trafficking or terrorism, but a victory for the U.S. could jeopardize rights to personal privacy.

The Verge suggests a compromise may be reached through an amendment to the 1986 Stored Communications Act on which the initial search warrant was founded. Revitalizing and revising old legislation to consider modern technology will likely be necessary for the world to fully embrace the cyber realm.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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Preparing the Next Generation of GEOINT Practitioners Mon, 26 Feb 2018 19:03:20 +0000 Now is the time for GEOINT experts across academia, government, and industry to collaborate and bring about a globally recognized discipline.

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GEOINT job roles and specialized skill sets have not kept pace with the changing technology environment and will continue to lag behind as data, collectors, tools, and technology expand. Remedying this situation demands an aggressive approach to preparing current and future GEOINT practitioners, which entails more than stating the problem and developing a few new training courses. Rather, the discipline needs a comprehensive growth campaign; one that markets to a wider audience, professes a broader understanding and global acceptance of GEOINT, prepares future practitioners to seek GEOINT careers and master complex GEOINT problems, encourages current practitioners to embrace and shape emerging capabilities, and engages industry to drive cutting-edge solutions that will transform the GEOINT discipline. Fundamental to this campaign is a common lexicon and a central body of knowledge. This common basis will underpin the future expansion of the discipline and ensure GEOINT practitioners receive the breadth of foundational and emerging skills required by the GEOINT Community.

This article addresses how the GEOINT Community can meet this changing environment with an emphasis on collaboration among stakeholders (government, industry, and academia). The changing GEOINT landscape in St. Louis offers an exceptional test ground for the broader GEOINT Community.

One of the most dramatic changes that has occurred in the GEOINT arena is the expanding community of practitioners. Historically, the practice of GEOINT included the fields of cartography, geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, imagery analysis, geology, image science, geodesy, photogrammetry, and other highly technical fields in which data was complex, attained from unclassified and classified sources, and demanded computer processing. Those who engaged in these fields often found themselves working hands on because computer systems were limited to just data processing and were not sophisticated enough to make human-like assessments and decisions. Fast forward a few decades to a computing world that now delivers huge volumes of data and hovers on the brink of delivering the benefits of machine learning and advanced automation. Expand that world one step further, where data once almost solely in the domain of scientists, classified operators, or academic fields has exploded globally across most industries.

This expansion has huge benefits because GEOINT, as a discipline, offers powerful insight to many different kinds of problems through improved data and technology. But with expansion comes a number of challenges. GEOINT experts have known for decades the necessity for precise and accurate data. In order to achieve precision and accuracy, data users were typically steeped in understanding the science, basic principles, algorithms, acquisition, and processing that went behind the data. Today, as computer technology becomes more sophisticated, many users will only have to push a button in order to get an answer and not be required to understand the origins of the data. This push-a-button ease runs the risk of creating a discipline not driven by experts. Now, more than ever, some subset of GEOINT practitioners and industries must understand the fundamentals of GEOINT and be held accountable to ensure accuracy, precision, and quality of output.

A clearly defined path for an expanding community of GEOINT experts starts with the GEOINT Essential Body of Knowledge (EBK) developed by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF). The EBK comprises the geospatial intelligence competency and practice in terms of key job tasks and essential knowledge, skills, and abilities required for a professional to be successful. Segments of the GEOINT Community already adhere to some standards because they recognize the importance and the impact on their output. For example, government users have long known the absolute precision required in defining operational products for military users. GEOINT practitioners in this area should be well versed in the science, understand and write computer algorithms, and know how to assess the overall quality produced. When a failure occurs, the forensics reveal a break in the chain of science and technique between the humans and their computers.

New GEOINT practitioners may not think they need the same level of accuracy to support their products and missions. This assumption becomes a challenge the GEOINT Community must overcome. For example:

  • A geospatial company providing locational data for the automobile industry wants to keep drivers out of harm’s way and needs accurate portrayal of important road safety features.
  • Future driverless cars will demand highly precise GEOINT data in order to build a trusted product.
  • Firefighters dealing with large forest fires require precise location and weather data to fight the fire and remain safe.
  • Agricultural companies seek to maximize plant health and minimize fertilizer use over large spans of ground at a precise level of locational detail.

Travel, flight, real estate, oil and gas, agriculture, and a number of other industries will demand accurate GEOINT data and personnel that understand how to deliver said accuracy. That ability means the next generation of GEOINT practitioners must understand the varied nature of the data and its sources, error budgets, the quality of processing algorithms, and the science behind the underlying GEOINT principles.

Now is the time for GEOINT experts across academia, government, and industry to collaborate and bring about a globally recognized discipline. The USGIF EBK provides a key first step. The Foundation also developed a Universal GEOINT Certification Program that will solidify the discipline and standardize the level of quality similar to that experienced in other fields. Industry and government are encouraged to use the certification as a condition of employment, and continuing education is required to maintain proficiency. Academic centers can tailor their programs in accordance with the certification requirements, providing students with both the necessary skills and the competitive advantage for employment. GEOINT professional societies will foster community practices such as peer review of major products to ensure scrutiny when viewed against established scientific principles. This collaborative effort can build a globally accepted discipline that will reach across industries.

Case Study: St. Louis

Establishing a global GEOINT discipline means building a comprehensive and expandable framework. Demonstrating and building such a framework efficiently must first be done where collaboration, planning, and implementation can be accomplished at a manageable scale. Using St. Louis, Mo., as this global launching platform takes advantage of a robust academic environment, an expanding industry and practitioner base, and an evolving government enterprise. USGIF recently established a St. Louis Area Working Group (SLAWG) focused on GEOINT collaboration among professionals from the government (both federal and local), military, industry, and academia to create lasting educational and community pathways to geospatial degrees, certifications, and/or careers in the St. Louis Region. The working group will support or build new geospatial centric pipelines that integrate and amplify existing National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) efforts designed to educate and train individuals from the St. Louis and the surrounding region. The end goal of this work is to grow and sustain a populace within St. Louis and the surrounding region that possesses the necessary geospatial skills to qualify for and fill existing and future NGA or industry technical, analytic, and management careers.

The St. Louis region has nationally and regionally ranked higher education institutions including Saint Louis University (SLU), Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Missouri – Saint Louis, Maryville University, Webster University, St. Louis Community College, Harris-Stowe State University, Lindenwood University, as well as several other universities and colleges nearby in Illinois. These institutions provide a range of GEOINT-related courses and programs of study to include remote sensing, GIS, and GPS courses toward bachelor of science degrees, certifications, and high school mentorship programs. Other programs include digital imaging, machine learning, computer vision, artificial intelligence, and programming. Among a population of new students as well as analysts already within the GEOINT Community who seek to upgrade their skills, St. Louis has a sizable potential population of GEOINT practitioners.

To coordinate the academic offerings in St. Louis with the future needs of the GEOINT discipline, discussions among the universities, NGA’s dedicated presence in St. Louis, and St. Louis tech companies can identify needed additions or changes to academic programs. For example: expanding data science programs to include how to communicate data interpretation results; augmenting analytic skills with probability and statistics, computer science, and communication; or growing the number of graduates in computer programming, GPS, geodesy and surveying skills, software coding, and data analytics.  

Some innovative program changes are already under way. At SLU, for instance, faculty have discussed how to combine various science and engineering majors and minors, allowing students to customize interdisciplinary programs that better address new GEOINT-related career fields. Other innovative ideas include more curriculum development and teaching in interdisciplinary areas, supporting research infrastructure through shared equipment and computational support, and allowing greater cross-department, STEM-focused collaboration in educational reform, outreach, and student support. For example, the creation of a curriculum roadmap for youth around critical skills needed for Air Force, mapping, and space exploration analysis could target middle school age students with an interest in STEM.

In 2013, the National Academies Press released the “Future U.S. Workforce for Geospatial Intelligence” report, which identified five core areas of GEOINT:

  1. Geodesy and Geophysics
  2. Photogrammetry
  3. Remote Sensing
  4. Cartographic Science
  5. GIS and Geospatial Analysis

The study also identified five emerging areas of GEOINT:

  1. GEOINT Fusion
  2. Crowdsourcing
  3. Human Geography
  4. Visual Analytics
  5. Forecasting

The study found that NGA’s future workforce, which is likely to be more interdisciplinary and focused on emerging areas, would need skills in spatial thinking, scientific and computer literacy, mathematics and statistics, languages and world travel, and professional ethics. Spatial thinking, math, and computer skills remain a gap in many natural and social science programs, and spatial perspectives remain a gap in most computer science and engineering programs. Only about one-third of the universities and colleges where NGA currently recruits have strong programs in core or emerging areas. Competition and a small number of graduates will likely cause shortages in cartography, photogrammetry, geodesy, and all emerging areas.

Long-term Steps

In addition to discussions about emerging skills needed by government, industry, and academia to help shape academic programs, there are a number of long-term solutions that could help create more comprehensive academic programs both in St. Louis and nationally:

  • Attract more people to the profession by introducing GEOINT to students during middle school. Today’s younger students, already comfortable with viewing their homes on satellite imagery, could easily be introduced to geospatial skills. Encouraging educators to include select programs within their STEM curriculum would begin to introduce some of the analytic principles behind the discipline, easily built upon as students progress to higher levels.
  • Partner USGIF-accredited colleges and universities with local schools to promote GEOINT understanding, practical experience, and college credit.
  • Maintain an easily accessible GEOINT database to facilitate a student’s ability to find colleges and universities known for GEOINT or related programs. The database could include recommended schools, courses, degree programs, and professors known as experts in the field.
  • Market programs maintained by USGIF and other nonprofit organizations to highlight existing resources for students. For example, America View, which is a partnership of remote sensing scientists from across the country, advocates for the use of Landsat and other publicly available remotely sensed data for K-12 STEM education and workforce development. In recent years, USGIF has also expanded its educational programming to include K-12 students.
  • Build the GEOINT Community through service hours or continuing education/development assignments to promote volunteering among GEOINT professionals to, for example, help with STEM-based, GEOINT-related education at local schools.
  • Modify the post-secondary academic curriculum for primary and secondary teachers to incorporate Next Generation Science Standards and relevant GEOINT materials. For states that have not adopted the standards, initiate an education campaign at the Department of Education and legislative representative level by school district to lead them forward, employing assistance from national education groups associated with the standards.

GEOINT professionals across industry, government, and academia have nurtured a discipline from what were highly technical sources and disparate organizational elements to one that has achieved far-reaching effects as an interconnected enterprise. As any discipline matures, it needs to build an operating framework that can support its acceptance, expansion, and continued growth. GEOINT has reached that point. The industry demands standards, professionalism, breadth, and continued advancement in knowledge, expertise, and technology. Advances in computing processes, the exponential growth in data sources and accessibility to that data, and the nature of informational problems that require locational intelligence place the GEOINT discipline on the cusp of becoming globally accepted. Now is the time for community members to partner to ensure the GEOINT enterprise has a solid foundation for its future.

Headline Image: USGIF Intern Madalyn Caraway (left) volunteered at a GeoPlunge tournament in Washington, D.C., where more than 100 students played the geography card game and learned spatial skills. 

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