Government Pavilion Stage Pt. 1

Leaders from NGA, DIA, and DHS share insights


Senior leaders from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), gave presentations Monday afternoon at the Government Pavilion Stage in the GEOINT 2016 exhibit hall.

Integrating the GEOINT Enterprise

Professionalization. Interoperability. Unity of effort. Those are the three pillars of the National System for Geospatial Intelligence (NSG) Strategy 2016, a new NSG roadmap introduced Monday by Robert Cardillo, director of NGA and GEOINT functional manager for the NSG.

Cardillo opened a panel discussion about the new strategy by leaders of the National Geospatial Intelligence Committee, otherwise known as GEOCOM. He was joined by Dustin Gard-Weiss, GEOCOM chair; Monique Yates, co-chair of the Training and Development Subcommittee; Dr. Joseph Fontanella, co-chair of the GEOINT Analysis and Production Subcommittee; and David Cacner, co-chair of the Information Systems Architecture Subcommittee.

The 2016 NSG strategy, panelists agreed, provides a destination—a fully integrated and interoperable GEOINT Enterprise—but not turn-by-turn directions for how to get there.

“This strategy is open-ended,” Cardillo said. “We’ve got a few tenets … but the whole idea is to [create] conversations and partnerships that don’t exist yet.”

Indeed, the previous NSG strategy—NSG Strategy 2013-2018—had 24 pages. The 2016 strategy has just four. Among its highlights:

  • Professionalization: Yates said the NSG will help develop a mature GEOINT profession by employing certification across the NSG workforce; supporting cooperative learning opportunities through the creation of shared curricula, training centers, and instructors; and innovating new ways to teach and model GEOINT tradecraft.
  • Interoperability: Fontanella and Cacner said the NSG will facilitate interoperability across the GEOINT enterprise by developing and enforcing common standards, providing access to shared exploitation and analytic tools, and establishing an open, multi-domain architecture through which to deliver geospatial content to authorized users.
  • Unity of effort: Gard-Weiss said the NSG would encourage unity of effort among government, academia, and industry by looking for ways to share resources and talent, exploiting commercial sources of information, and creating repeatable metrics to holistically assess performance across the GEOINT Enterprise.

If successful, Gard-Weiss concluded, the new strategy won’t merely connect NSG members—it will unify them. “We are moving from a largely bilateral, transactional mindset to one of broader community and enterprise focus,” he said.

Continuing NGA Pathfinder

Many people involved with the first iteration of NGA’s GEOINT Pathfinder project were disappointed to see it come to a close.

“There were a lot of very sad people at the end of Pathfinder 1. People did not want to return to the mother ship,” said Chris Rasmussen, source software development lead for Pathfinder—which the agency describes as “an unclassified lab to answer key intelligence questions.”

Rasmussen, together with Eric Makowsky, an NGA deputy program manager, said the work culture—specifically “the sense of curiosity and the sense of play”—were key to the project’s success.

Less than half of the Pathfinder team members were NGA employees; the rest were from the U.S. military and allied countries. Participants used Google Hangout, Skype, and Jive to enhance “thinking out loud,” with much of the work conducted between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.

“Teams have their own battle rhythm,” Rasmussen said, adding that a diverse group of experts—statisticians, “true blue imagery analysts,” and mathematicians worked together.

To recruit for Pathfinder 2, which began April 16, NGA used a leading question model—posing a question to candidates to gauge their thinking about complex problems—before looking at résumés.

Rasmussen said predictive analytics would be a priority for Pathfinder 2. For example, to deduce Russian energy development activity in the Arctic, the team might use commercial shipping data to analyze on-the-ground activity and predict development.

“Pathfinder is really about trying to get to the ground to build unique content,” Makowsky added.

Defense Intelligence Focuses on Analytics

Intelligence analysis is a bit like surgery: You would expect a surgeon to be entirely focused on the operating table much like you would want an intelligence analyst charged with informing national security decisions to focus on solving a big-picture problem. Most of those decisions have multiple facets, and visualizing them all at once is helpful, said Terry Busch, chief of DIA’s Integrated Analysis and Methodologies Division.

“All data fuses best on a map,” Busch said. “It’s the best way to convey a complicated message. It’s the best way to convey change for any issue.”

Within the last year, according to Busch, DIA focused on laying out the architecture for dynamically generated databases. Moving forward, it is focused on analytics.

“Geo-based analytics remain dependent on static data sets; we do little to identify gaps in situ,” Busch said, adding that identifying those gaps is an increasing priority with the explosion of data. “Everything has sensors—even your [conference] badge,” he said.

“We are living in a world of ubiquitous data. The granularity and fidelity of data is mind-numbing,” Busch concluded. “We love to take data and use it.”

Applying Geospatial Data to Improve Homeland Security

Every time you board an airplane, you’re benefitting from geospatial intelligence. Air travel is just one example of how DHS uses geospatial analysis. From border control to support at sports events to cybersecurity, DHS uses geospatial information to keep the public safe.

“What we do as a community matters to the safety of our country,” said David Lilley Jr., deputy director of the DHS Geospatial Management Office (GMO).

Lilley shared how his office is bridging the gap between the Defense Department and DHS. His office also works with NGA, the Department of the Interior, and academic institutions and organizations such as USGIF.

GMO priority areas include: standardizing operating procedures, advancing interoperability, developing safe geospatial architecture and infrastructure, and promoting geospatial governance. There is also a big push to reduce IT duplication and fragmentation in alignment with goals set by Congress, Lilley said.

Additionally, in both the private and public sectors, there is a growing demand for 3D and 4D information and integrating wearable devices with real-time information delivery. There is also a move away from desktop to web-based software, he said.

While it’s “a struggle to keep pace with commercial technologies,” Lilley said, DHS aims to inspire innovation in its contracts.

Co-written by Matt Alderton and Kristine Crane


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