Exploring the GEOINT Lexicon

A multi-tiered vetting process would help define tradecraft language


A panel of industry, government, and academic experts discussed the GEOINT lexicon—essentially exploring the very essence of geospatial intelligence—Monday during a GEOINT Foreword concurrent session.

“[When] I think of ‘intelligence,’” said Shawn Kalis, director of strategy and proposal management for Applied Research Solutions. “You’ll see over 100 definitions. Words mean different things even within the Department of Defense.”

The lack of a common language within the GEOINT Community affects how people communicate, proposals are funded, and contracts are fulfilled.

Among the many questions posed at the outset of the conversation: How do you define terms that are dynamic? Where to begin? How do you consider the perspectives of a warfighter, Wall Street analyst, and all users in between?

Daniela Moody, a scientist in the Intelligence and Space Research Division of Los Alamos National Laboratory, cited the community’s long and challenging process for defining activity-based intelligence (ABI) as an example—and said even the ABI definition includes the vague term ‘multi-INT.’

Diana Sinton, executive director of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, referenced the popularity of crowdsourcing and suggested a Wiki format to capture input and definitions from various audiences. This idea was embraced and revisited throughout the session.

Kalis noted the challenge of determining who will have authority over the definitions on a page such as a Wiki.

“We don’t want it so structured that [people are] like, ‘Well, that’s NGA’s definition; we’re the Air Force,’” Kalis said.

Of course, a new lexicon resource should be digital and accessible, Sinton added.

Kalis said he’d like a one-stop shop to look up terms—such as AcronymFinder, which he uses today.

Monday’s discussion was the first in a series of planned conversations concerning the GEOINT lexicon. The conversation will continue in August at the ENVI Analytics Symposium in Boulder, Colo., hosted by Exelis.

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