An Integrated Future

The National System for Geospatial Intelligence seeks to leverage commercial GEOINT


Dr. Michael Hauck assessed the growing state of geospatial intelligence: “We have more than one specialization. Specialized LiDAR technology and analysis. Specialized radar. Specialized, specialized, specialized. And machines now are becoming very specialized.”

Hauck, a geospatial consultant and former director of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, then asked this question Sunday at GEOINT Foreword: “But to solve real-world intelligence problems, is it specialization … or is it overall understanding of how this fits together that is going to be critical?”

Dustin Gard-Weiss and Navy Cmdr. Brian Rower offered some answers.


Presentation: Commercial GEOINT Integration by Dustin Gard-Weiss, Director, GEOINT Enterprise Office, NGA; and CDR Brian Rower from Trajectory On Location on Vimeo.

Rower is Gard Weiss’ military counterpart in the National System for Geospatial Intelligence (NSG). The future, they said, is solving problems through combined efforts from a growing list of potential assets, including commercial GEOINT.

“The bottom line is that we need to look at how we are leveraging our geospatial capabilities today,” said Gard-Weiss, director of NGA’s GEOINT Enterprise office. “We need to posture ourselves on how we are going to leverage them in the future.”

This message has been shared with industry and is being communicated to international partners. The third step is to derive a plan for broader-sourced geospatial intelligence for the future.

A series of four tests, called “sprints,” were conducted in 2016 to assess how further integration of commercial GEOINT could work. Under the auspices of the Multi-Agency Collaboration Environment (MACE), the sprints began with a combination of commercially available imagery and Automatic Identification System data to gather information about a Libyan ship and its role in refugee transportation between Libya and Italy. By adding social media information, the ship was identified and its mission confirmed.

From there, more difficult requirements such as bad weather were added to sprints two and three before a final sprint sought assistance in force protection and security planning for a national public safety event to occur in 2020. Analysts chose from among 600 satellites and 80 analysis tools, and were tasked to provide “an analysis of the ability to develop the best collection strategy based on the key intelligence question, funding, and the ability to complement national technical means.”

It’s essential to determine how to integrate commercial and military capabilities into a smooth problem-solving system, the duo said.

“Essentially, MACE is leveraging neural networks, analytics, and a user interface,” Rower said. “The user can customize the operating picture to integrate disparate tools, data, algorithms, systems, collection platforms, and networks to solve problems.”

The driving force behind this effort is an understanding that the commercial GEOINT future is expanding rapidly, offering “improved revisit rates, spectral diversity, and the promise of greater insight,” Rower added.

The goal is to combine those assets. MACE is also developing a process in which the military can identify and access applicable commercial capabilities, test them, then go back to industry for remedies, if needed.


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