Northrop Grumman: Augmenting Legacy

Northrop Grumman develops open-source intelligence tools to meet mission requirements


At the GEOINT 2012 Symposium in October, leaders of government agencies and the services discussed challenges, including budget cutbacks, and petitioned industry to understand and help them achieve their goals.

As the vice president of Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Intelligence Systems business unit, Shawn Purvis understands well the challenges faced by government, and is developing the tools necessary to help meet mission requirements.

Northrop Grumman is focused on the needs of mission partners for processing, exploitation, and dissemination (PED) capabilities, automating data, and analysis. Its core customers include various intelligence agencies, the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies.

“We have the unique opportunity to work across multiple disciplines in the Intelligence Community,” Purvis said. “We’re bringing some of the best-of-breed technology and capability from different sources and cross-sharing that with our customers.”

One of the biggest challenges faced by customers is how to handle the massive amounts of data that analysts must process, Purvis said. Northrop Grumman is working on open-source intelligence tools to harvest data from the web, including Twitter and Facebook. These tools will help analysts sift through data to discover the jewels that are true intelligence issues.

“Our goal is to give the power back to the user,” Purvis said.

To accomplish this goal, they are developing open source intelligence tools and applications that can plug-and-play with many legacy systems.

“It’s what the customer is asking for,” Purvis said. “As a user, you say, ‘I need A, B, and C.’ You don’t care who the vendor is, you just want the tools to address your intelligence question.”

Each intelligence community has applications that have been developed within individual pockets, or stovepipes, explained Purvis.

“You get the bigger bang for the buck by consolidating and collaborating, to have applications that can communicate with each other and share data across the full intel spectrum,” she said.

The open-source intelligence tools she and her team at Northrop Grumman are developing have application programming interfaces (APIs) on the backend, which enable them to plug-and-play into many different architectures.

“We’re trying to add and augment existing infrastructure,” Purvis said.

This interoperability allows a customer to incorporate new tools into work flow, without the need to replace all of their legacy applications.

Purvis also offered some observations from her experience as an exhibitor at GEOINT 2012.

“What I’ve seen over the last two to three years is a growth of users who understand the power behind geospatial intelligence,” she said.

Directorates, agencies, and the services are now coming to GEOINT, she said, striving to understand GEOINT technology, as well as discussing how to make the technology faster, better, more ef ficient, and more accurate.

“To see the customers, hear their challenges at the different workshops, and then to see all of the tools and technologies that are out there, [the GEOINT Symposium is] just a great opportunity to expose yourself to all of that at one time,” Purvis said.


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