Leaders across the IC share predictions on the future of GEOINT
Robert Cardillo, Deputy Director for Intelligence Integration, ODNI
GEOINT has to be persistent and exquisite. It’s got to be advancing the art and exposing new opportunities for understanding nuances … [GEOINT has] always been good at context, we’ve always been good at content, and we’re getting better at continuity, but we’ve got to get a lot better on consequence.
John Goolgasian, Director, Foundation GEOINT Group, Source and Operations Management Directorate, NGA
I’d put it in one word: ubiquity. The demand, the drive, the ability for geospatial information to really be the basis for everything that almost everyone does is what the future’s going to be. Location-based services, whether it’s for industry, or for the general public, or for the military and Intelligence Community, will be the norm, not the exception.
The Honorable Jeffrey Harris, President and CEO, JKH Consulting; former Director, NRO
I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface at all, if you think about trying to understand the planet’s environment and people’s impact on the planet … It’s a future that I find unsettling, but there are a range of technologies that are fundamentally surrounded by GEOINT and the sensing phenomenologies that we do with GEOINT in situ—sensors combined with remote sensing—that I think is a very powerful capability for those of us who share this blue planet.
Letitia A. Long, Director, NGA
Promises and challenges born of frequent and rapid geopolitical change, such as the Arab Spring, turmoil across Africa, and rebalancing toward the Pacific, create significant opportunities for NGA and GEOINT. NGA will pursue these opportunities as they emerge and will continue its constant process of transformation to realize our vision of putting GEOINT in the hands of the user.
Jeff Jonas, IBM Fellow and Chief Scientist, Context Computing, IBM
Sensors will out sensors. More and more things—the Internet of Things—are going to be geospatially self-aware. And when things are unable to report their own whereabouts (e.g., an old version or a dead battery) … never fear—other, smarter things that are geospatially aware will notice them and send their coordinates.
Paul Weise, GEOINT Mission Director, Lockheed Martin
More real-time access. GEOINT on … the mobile device of our choosing. Not just for navigational purposes, but for intelligence purposes and operational purposes as well … You’re going to see more demand to fuse things like Twitter and social media into GEOINT. It’s done now, but with a great deal of force fitting. It will be fused more on the fly in real time.
Jonathan Hutson, Architect, Satellite Sentinel Project
A significant factor shaping the future of GEOINT is the arrival of relatively inexpensive [remote sensing] solutions by companies such as SkyBox Imaging and Planet Labs, which offer constellations of smaller birds and nearly ubiquitous coverage; and UrtheCast, which offers high-definition sensors on the International Space Station. These will rapidly become indispensable additions to the human security toolbox, because these fresh eyes will be useful for tipping and cueing in cases of civilian displacement due to conflict or natural disasters.
The Honorable James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence
Tomorrow has started in a big way. This is a focus that [NGA Director Long] has put on conveying GEOINT to the user so that users can tap into GEOINT databases directly. She’s done a lot to lead the effort to make that available at the edge, if you will, to the customer, the user, and the decision maker. I see that as the wave of the future for GEOINT.
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Director, DIA
As technology evolves, GEOINT will become an even more relevant source of intelligence, both on its own and particularly in combination with other intelligence disciplines. At DIA, we will continue to work with NGA to better integrate GEOINT tasking, collection, and exploitation capabilities to make the most effective and efficient use of national, foreign, commercial, and tactical resources. At the same time, we will work with the DNI and USDI to improve the integrated application of all relevant collection disciplines and exploitation and analytic capabilities to fulfill our defense all-source intelligence mission.
Kevin Pomfret, Executive Director, Centre for Spatial Law and Policy
In light of recent reports concerning the NSA’s collection efforts, I predict the collection, use, storage, and transfer of geospatial information will be subject to greater regulation and oversight in the U.S. and abroad, particularly as new technologies (UAVs, the cloud, crowd-sourcing, etc.) become more widespread. As a result, organizations within the GEOINT Community will need to develop operating policies and procedures that take into account the concerns and equities of non-traditional stakeholders.
David Messinger, Ph.D., Director, Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Laboratory, Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, Rochester Institute of Technology
People don’t realize how broad the GEOINT field is becoming. Whether it’s technology that’s creeping into precision agriculture, or urban planning, or disaster response, there’s a wide range of applications now that have nothing to do with defense and intelligence, and we’re only seeing that more and more.
Collin A. Agee, Senior Advisor for IC Engagement, U.S. Army G-2
The inexorable link between geospatial and cyber will grow stronger as human beings and their machines will increasingly be on the grid and interconnected. Activity-Based Intelligence will continue to evolve toward its true potential, far beyond our current neophyte efforts. Leadership and resourcing will determine how rapid the progress. But this brave new geospatial world will not be dominated by automation, as human geography will also come into its own.
John Sherman, Director of Strategic Operations, NGA
We’re moving into realms of big data. We’re moving into realms where anticipatory analysis is the watchword. Our customers—our partners—don’t want to know as much what happened yesterday as what’s going to happen tomorrow … The people who do it are changing. The skill sets we’re going to be hiring in the coming years are not going to look like they do now. We’re going to need big data analysts, visualizers, people who understand human geography … GEOINT is among the most transformational things going on now.
Bob Gourley, Publishing, CTOvision.com and AnalystOne.com
The dramatic advancements in geospatial tools available to any consumer are only giving us hints of what will come. We will all be surprised by geospatial applications for home, business and recreational users, and the new powers those apps will give people. The biggest enabler of this coming change is the smartphone, which in 2014 has reached 56 percent market penetration in the U.S. When that hits 80 percent just wait… It will really be game on! We will have industries created we can’t even imagine right now.
Orrin Mills, Associate Deputy Director, Imagery Intelligence Acquisition Directorate, NRO
Activity-based intelligence, and the persistence that will give us … is the wave of the future. That’s the way [NGA] will be going, and partnering with the NRO is crucial to that end game… All the 16 agencies that surround the DNI—all of those are consumers of GEOINT in one way, shape, form, or another. They all over the years have come to recognize that NGA in its role as the functional manager for GEOINT provides that information in a timely manner because of the way we have pushed out GEOINT into the customer’s footprint and made it readily available to them and easier to find. We will continue to do that in the future and make it even better with our service methods.
Peggy Agouris, Ph.D., Dean, College of Science, George Mason University
I expect that GEOINT is going to be a significant part of the educational portfolio that academic institutions offer. In terms of the community and the world, I think it will become a much more recognizable term because it will move away from just defense and military applications. Not to discount them—they’re very critical and very at the heart of what we’re doing—but I think they’re becoming just a part of the portfolio of activities that are sponsored by GEOINT. The importance of having expertise and analysts and workforce in those [other] areas will become obvious. This is a field that will continue to expand. There will be more components added to the interdisciplinary aspects of GEOINT. As a result, I feel the world is going to be much more familiar with what it means to work in this area, and how important and critical it is.
Chris Bellios, Vice President of Operations, Global Analysis & Operations, BAE Systems
I see GEOINT certifications as being an important component to protect and not dilute the tradecraft in the future… As the mission changes in the community, I think GEOINT will be an important component to the Intelligence Community. As we move on to new challenges in Southeast Asia—as we pivot into Africa, and into border issues and drug cartels—I think GEOINT will be the key component in describing the intelligence picture going forward.
Don Vance, Director for GEOINT Programs, Intelligence Systems Group, Boeing
The next frontier, if you will, is probably being able to do real-time and predictive GEOINT analysis based on location data feeds from millions of enabled sensors. There’s so much data collection out there; it’s really the ability to assemble and authenticate the data that’s going to be critical in the future.
Jeffrey Tarr, President & CEO, DigitalGlobe
The types of questions that GEOINT can answer will continue to evolve. In years past, the discipline was focused almost entirely on what we call ‘Show me there’ questions. We are already moving into a future where more and more of the questions are shifting from ‘Show me there’ to ‘Show me where.’ ‘Show me where’ questions are about anticipating events and solving large-scale spatial problems. To answer more ‘Show me where’ questions, we are moving the computations to the data, rather than moving the data to the computations. Geospatial data can be immensely large, incongruent, and disparate in source. By bringing the compute to these vast resources we are able to extract valuable insights heretofore not possible.
Adam Keith, Director, Space & Earth Observation, Euroconsult
As a result of the relatively high cost to maintain and launch EO defense satellites and the investment required to fund R&D, only 11 countries have developed EO defense capacity dedicated to supporting IMINT; the commercial sector is expected to make up a significant part of future demand. Development of dual-use systems is expected to increase, with costs spreading across multiple government departments in order to fulfill the data requirements of numerous public sectors. Further commercialization of dual-use systems, such as that observed in Italy and France, is also expected as countries seek to re-coup costs and/or support national industry.
Dr. Christopher K. Tucker, Principal, Yale House Ventures
I predict that the geospatial revolution and spatial awakening that is happening within civil society will lead to better, more complete, more timely, more precise, and more accurate spatio-temporal data, information, and knowledge about our world available outside of the SCIF than is available inside the SCIF.
Amazon Web Services, Edgybees, Guidehouse, and Whitespace set to take the stage Oct. 6 at the GEOINT 2021 Symposium for the final round of this year's GEOINT Innovative Tradecraft Competition.