If there is one improvement in geospatial intelligence Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Brown Jr., the deputy commander for U.S. Central Command, would like to see, it’s a greater ability to process and analyze vast amounts of incoming data.
“We have more data than we can actually analyze right now,” Brown said during his GEOINT 2018 keynote Wednesday. “I think there’s more data available now than we’ve ever seen and it presents a massive challenge for us.”
USCENTCOM, which oversees combat operations in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, collects enough video annually to fill 325,000 feature-length movies, the general said.
“What is the golden nugget in this—that information that’s out there that you’re going to be able to execute on or make a decision on?” he asked. “I think we’re really missing opportunities, or we’re in decision paralysis.”
Brown said the “process, exploit, disseminate,” or PED aspect of GEOINT, isn’t quite as strong or mature as other areas, and he’s working to develop the “Theater Exploitation and Manager Concept” to turn geospatial information into action.
“[The concept] establishes a framework to allow us to—in procedures—do some prioritization and optimization of our PED enterprise,” he said, adding that it “matches the PED capabilities that we have and prioritizes those and optimizes those against the requirements defined by either the Joint Task Force Commander or the Combatant Commander.”
Just like the military will prioritize where to task intelligence gathering, including the gathering of GEOINT, Brown said USCENTCOM is trying to prioritize the sorting and analysis of that data.
“We’re tasking different imaging agencies and different parts of the enterprise to have a set of responsibilities to match up with our priorities in order to execute whatever task we’re working through,” Brown said. “The goal is to actually get this into doctrine, so it actually becomes a way of doing business, not just for CENTCOM, but across the enterprise for all the Combatant Commands.”
One key area in which Brown said he’d like to see GEOINT implemented more effectively is target selection.
“It’d take us roughly about 90 days to develop a target,” he said. “If we can get that to where we can develop targets much quicker, that gives us more options to put more pressure on our adversaries.”
GEOINT’s necessity was demonstrated earlier this month when the U.S. and its partners carried out strikes in Syria to deter the use of chemical weapons, he said.
“We couldn’t do all the things we did without the GEOINT ahead of time, and the GEOINT afterward to assess how we did,” Brown said.
But he also cautioned the importance of developing GEOINT systems to be adaptable. Future fights won’t be the same as operations in Iraq and Syria.
Brown said his biggest advice for industry was to never stop innovating.
“We don’t know what we don’t know … the requirement we have today will not be the requirement we have tomorrow,” he said. “Someone once told me the largest room in the world is the room for improvement.”