Government Pavilion Stage Highlights: Part 2

Recaps on NGA’s GEOWorks, the GEOINT enterprise, Army GEOINT, DIA data, and first responder R&D


Leaders from government, military, industry, and academia shared insights and business opportunities Tuesday afternoon at the Government Pavilion Stage in the GEOINT 2018 exhibit hall.

NGA Hopes GEOWorks will Aid Industry Outreach
By Phillip Swarts


After announcing a new data sharing platform yesterday, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) leaders are adding more incentives for companies to check it out. GEOWorks, introduced by NGA Director Robert Cardillo in his keynote Monday at GEOINT 2018, is a new way for the agency to share its geospatial information for public use.

“We’re trying to put as many tools out there for solutions like this to be brought in to the federal government because we recognize the solutions that are being developed by the AI community are more than likely commercial solutions for which there is a government use as well,” said Christy Monaco, NGA’s chief ventures officer.

Monaco, who helped oversee the roll out of GEOWorks, said NGA will hold a lottery among companies that use the platform: one lucky winner will get to have a sit-down meeting with Cardillo.

While currently restricted to U.S. companies, Monaco added GEOWorks would soon be opened up to American allies.

Dr. Anthony Vinci, NGA’s chief technology officer, said the agency is trying to make it easier for industry and other partners to work with the government to meet the challenges of the future.

“How do we actually get to a future where GEOINT is done using AI automation augmentation technology? We’re not going to get there alone,” Vinci said. “NGA is certainly not going to invent its way out of this issue. We’re not going to develop it ourselves.”

Needs and Opportunities for a Collaborative GEOINT Enterprise
By Matt Alderton

Lt. Gen. John Bansemer is tired of bridge metaphors that pervade conversations about collaboration and teamwork. Although no one can argue the utility of a bridge, what works well as physical infrastructure, he argued, is inferior as business infrastructure.

“Building a bridge gets me to one destination,” Bansemer, assistant director of national intelligence for partner engagement at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said. “I’d rather have a traffic circle with a whole bunch of off-ramps.”

How to construct that traffic circle within the global GEOINT enterprise—encompassing NGA; its customers across intelligence, defense, and civil missions; and its partners, including foreign governments, industry, and academia—was the subject of the “Operationalizing the Global Enterprise: Challenges and Opportunities” panel discussion.

Moderated by NGA Associate Director for Enterprise Dustin Gard-Weiss, the conversation looked at collaboration through numerous lenses thanks to a diverse panel of experts that included Bansemer and four of his peers: Dr. David Applegate, associate director for natural hazards at the U.S. Geological Survey; Gary Dunow, chief of the International Support Team for Europe and Canada at NGA; Nicole Gibson, partner/principal at PwC; and Maj. Gen. John Howard of the New Zealand Defence Forces, who is deputy director for commonwealth integration at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Collectively, the panelists challenged several assumptions they said are preventing the global GEOINT enterprise from operating at peak potential. It’s assumed, for instance, that partners must be equal; instead, panelists argued the benefits of asymmetric relationships. Likewise, it’s assumed that big partners make the best partners; instead of size, panelists emphasized diversity. And finally, it’s assumed that sharing creates security risks; so does not sharing, the panel proposed.

Concluded Gard-Weiss: “We’re all a part of this global GEOINT enterprise together. We each have a responsibility to realize its potential … and to bring our enterprise and operations together in a way that will make that potential real.”

Army GEOINT Aims to Unify Data Across Service
By Phillip Swarts

The Army is attempting to unify its geospatial data so everyone is working off the same information, according to the service’s top GEOINT official.

“Right now when you go out and you give Army programs the ability to do whatever they want, you have chaos out there,” said Joseph Fontanella, Army Geospatial Information Officer and director of the Army Geospatial Center (AGC). “At least for a common operational picture, we want a common foundation.”

In a presentation titled, “Unified Action Partner Geospatial Interoperability,” Fontanella said the Army wants to ensure foundational information is the same across all GEOINT maps, and that every office and unit is using the same tools such as elevation data and satellite images.

“We try to set the conditions to ensure that this seamless sharing of geospatial data services take place,” he said. “The bottom line is the [AGC], working with the headquarters department of the Army and NGA, is going to work to capture, document, and align these geospatial interoperability requirements.”

Fontanella said he wants the information to be easier to share with industry as well, and that the Army is moving away from proprietary standards that aren’t as accessible to others for its GEOINT systems.

But setting standards for geospatial data isn’t all Fontanella is trying to do—he wants to guarantee Army units know how to follow those standards.

“One of the things we’ve learned over the years is it’s not just enough to have a standard,” he said. “What has to go along with that is a series of profiles to help each of our programs and our partners implement those standards correctly.”

Ensuring Data Integrity at DIA
By Jim Hodges


Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are being spoken of as the next big steps in analytical problem solving. They may well be, but Terry Busch, DIA’s chief data officer, posits there is another step necessary before going down that road.

“It doesn’t sound so sexy and exciting, but if you want to do all your AI stuff, you want to do all your machine learning stuff, your data has to be good,” he said. “It has to be normalized. It has to be perfect.”

Busch’s job is ensuring the aforementioned data integrity.

“Getting to big data was easy for us because it was geospatially oriented,” he said.
“The big question has become, ‘Is big data geo?’ … Most of the data out there in the world has some locational attribute to it.”

DIA has forged a partnership with the NGA to ensure stronger geospatial data moving forward.

“Since NGA owns the geospatial roadmap, they’re really our thought leaders in this space,” Busch said.

Many of the big data challenges involve establishing confidence in data validity and putting it into context, especially as datasets are fused to form intelligence products.

“We always say you can’t do big data without visualization,” Busch said. “One of the things we always tell people is just look at it on a map. Nothing gives context to data more than putting it on a map, seeing it in real space.”

GEOINT & Situational Awareness for First Responders
By Jim Hodges

When Dr. David Alexander lists the contents of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) First Responders Group (FRG) portfolio, it’s like he’s reading a catalogue of disaster: hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, and more.

“Location and geospatial are pervasive across the predominance of our research and development,” said Alexander, chief geospatial scientist for the FRG under DHS Science & Technology (S&T).

That’s because any disaster response begins with situational awareness. DHS S&T group has a program office that looks at UAVs, and another that works with combining satellite and terrestrial images. Both require GEOINT to succeed. So do any other plans for local, state, or national emergency response.

DHS S&T connects researchers with academia and industry, Alexander said. The key to the group’s success is getting those minds together to find solutions.The effort includes a 28-nation partnership with DHS that helps allocate research dollars for investment in technology development for disaster response.

“The best way a first responder can provide those life-saving missions is if they have trust and confidence that they are protected and fitted properly for their mission,” Alexander said. “It could be through new equipment, uniforms, gloves and other technologies beyond geospatial.”

He also stressed that local responders are the first line of defense for homeland security’s mission. Such grants can influence both the effectiveness of disaster response efforts and first responder safety, as well as help in training and setting standards.


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