Just after Congressman Joaquin Castro welcomed GEOINT 2017 to his hometown and thanked the industry for its work on behalf of the House Intelligence Committee, leaders of allied GEOINT nations described how it could be challenging to sell the discipline’s value in their respective countries.
“From our people, there’s sort of a lack of understanding about what GEOINT is trying to do,” said Lt. Col. Damon Taylor, Director, GEOINT, New Zealand Defense Force. “A lot of the time, you show people and their eyes light up.”
Taylor and other members of the Allied System for Geospatial Intelligence (ASG) took questions from Dustin Gard-Weiss, director of NGA’s GEOINT Enterprise Office, Monday during a panel on the future of GEOINT. Panelists described steps being taken to advance geospatial intelligence back home, many of which involve culture change.
“Our mission is about is trust,” said Col. Eric Vandenberg, Chief of Staff, Director of Intelligence and Partnerships, Canada. “Not just in what our customers have in the services we provide, but also the trust of our partners—whether it’s our partners in the armed forces or international partners.”
Most panelists said their country is enhancing GEOINT capabilities, in some cases from small levels. But leveraging new capabilities can also present
While trying to integrate with other government and military operations, Allison West, Assistant Secretary for GEOINT Foundation and Support, Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation, is trying to expand her country’s geospatial staff from 400 to 700. Australia is recruiting from a workforce of varying qualifications.
“It’s a journey,” she said, and then added, “And we’re on it.”
The United Kingdom has a diverse GEOINT workforce and boasts of its National Centre for Geospatial Intelligence, said panelist Aimee Tuffs. Like many nations, the UK aims to partner more with academia and industry.
Our mission is about trust. Not just in what our customers have in the services we provide, but also the trust of our partners—whether it’s our partners in the armed forces or international partners.” —Col. Eric Vandenberg, Chief of Staff, Director of Intelligence and Partnerships, Canada
Canada is embarking on a new model in recruiting, training, and supporting its civilian workforce, according to Vandenberg. She added the initiative is not just across the Intelligence Command, but the entirety of the nation’s forces, and that civilians and military tend to serve in parallel rather than jointly.
All panelists represented nations sharing duty in the Middle East.
Canada, especially, is applying GEOINT lessons learned from its involvement in the Middle East. Like many countries, Canada separates its imagery analysis from other GEOINT functions, and that separation occurs in three to four Ottawa-based facilities. That is going to change, Vandenberg said, advocating for co-location of offices for all of GEOINT, first, then joining intelligence and operations offices.
“When we deploy overseas, we actually do quite well,” he added, pointing to commands in which all intelligence operations are together, contrasted with the structure back in Canada. The country looks toward a Defense Policy Review due Wednesday for a signal on the future of GEOINT and GEOINT-operational synergy.
Vandenberg also said he is seeing culture shift when it comes to partnering with industry.
“I think we’ve been late to the game in acknowledging the value industry can provide to us,” said Vandenberg. “In the past, we’ve tried to develop everything in house. Advancing technology has changed some minds in Canada.”