The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) are looking for ways to increase sharing of their complementary intelligence capabilities, according to NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers.
Calling humans “very visual” beings, Rogers said NSA’s signals intelligence (SIGINT) products are a powerful tool, but could provide an even more complete picture when coupled with GEOINT. He added NGA’s GEOINT products could similarly benefit from a pairing with SIGINT, offering a mutually beneficial relationship.
“NSA needs to do a better job of partnering with NGA,” said Roger, during his keynote address Wednesday at GEOINT 2015. “It’s something that [NGA Director] Robert Cardillo and I are both trying to work on.”
Rogers’ comments came a day after Cardillo, in his own keynote speech, called for greater collaboration with existing and potential partners, saying NGA “cannot do it alone” and must “leverage the collective strength of the team.”
Rogers, who is dual-hatted as commander of U.S. Cyber Command, indicated the command could also benefit from the increased visualization GEOINT affords. He has asked his CYBERCOM team to learn how the private sector could help it visualize the Department of Defense information networks it is charged with protecting.
“Every single component has a physical geographic position on the face of the Earth,” Rogers said. “I always remind my workforce it has to be more than just showing decision-makers, policymakers and ourselves, ‘Hey, look at this great network schematic.’ Let’s look at the physical part, so show me where it is because there are lots of ways to try to understand things.”
Rogers said his interest in visualization stems from his service at sea, during which time he served as a cryptologist aboard submarines and surface ships. He and fellow crew members created compelling geographic pictures of potential threats, friendly forces, and their own resources. Rogers has also served as intelligence director for both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Pacific Command, and as commander of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and U.S. 10th Fleet.
“I have seen firsthand in my career, multiple times, the power that imagery brings to our attempts to generate insights and knowledge that support the production of better policy and better operational outcomes,” he said.
Rogers said NSA is working to determine the role of mobile technology within the agency. While there are obvious concerns mobility will create more vulnerabilities, Rogers believes those risks can be mitigated and that “we cannot turn our back” on the technology.
“The right answer is not, ‘Well, let’s just not do wireless, let’s not do mobile,’” he said. “That’s a losing strategy.”
In response to an audience member’s question, Rogers declined to discuss specifics about the ongoing investigation into the recent massive data breach at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). But, he said the U.S. government’s ability to determine the source of such attacks has improved significantly over the past decade despite greater attempts by hackers to obfuscate their identities.
“Attribution sure has come a long way,” he said.
The OPM incident, the latest in a series of high-profile cyber attacks, underscores the need to determine how the U.S. government can better defend itself and “change this dynamic,” Rogers asserted.
“Just continually responding to individual incidents I don’t think in the long run is going to get us where we need to be,” he said. “I think there’s broad recognition of that.”