The Five Eyes: Sharing GEOINT Data & Services

GEOINT liaison officers share insights at USGIF’s GEOINTeraction Tuesday event


Four GEOINT liaison officers based at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in Springfield, Va., participated in a Q&A Sept. 11 during USGIF’s GEOINTeraction Tuesday event. The participants—representing the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—were interviewed by Isaac Zaworski, vice president at Vricon, which hosted the event at its headquarters in McLean, Va.

“The fact that we are here talking to you speaks [volumes] about the health of the global geospatial enterprise,” said Gordon Muir, senior liaison officer for North America with the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation.

The liaison officers highlighted the mission of the Allied System for Geospatial Intelligence (ASG) and how it relates to the U.S. National System for Geospatial Intelligence.

“We are senior liaison staff within NGA, but actually our liaison is really to the GEOINT mission within the U.S.,” said Simon Wynn, senior liaison officer for the U.K. “We are not embeds or exchange officers … We make sure that in terms of our mission we understand the U.S. GEOINT enterprise, we can integrate into the U.S. GEOINT enterprise, and we can support the Five Eyes GEOINT mission.”

Five Eyes refers to the intelligence alliance among the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to share responsive and timely intelligence to meet individual and collective security needs..

“The senior liaison officers are very much a team,” Wynn continued. “ … We can’t fulfill our own national objectives without seeing them in the Five Eyes sense.”

Lt. Col. Kevin Ng, senior Canadian forces intelligence liaison officer, highlighted the nascent ASG Five-Year Campaign Plan, which will run from 2018 to 2023 and be updated on an annual basis. He shared the plan’s four lines of operation:

  1. Mission management: A framework that enables Five Eyes partners for mission sharing.
  2. Accelerating the GEOINT cycle: Expanding in areas such as structured observation, automation, and artificial intelligence technology.
  3. Managing GEOINT sources: Assessing new, commercial sources and identifying how to acquire them and make the data accessible for warfighters.
  4. Transforming the workforce: Overcoming cultural and institutional challenges to integrate Five Eyes workforces into a coherent enterprise.

Wynn emphasized the collaborative nature of the campaign plan.

“When you look at the advantages of the ASG campaign plan, it’s about aligning those lines of effort where it suits national interests but also where it suits Five Eyes collaboration,” he said. “ …. A lot of stuff we procure is along national lines but suits international interest.”

Andy Francis, GEOINT liaison officer in Washington for the New Zealand Defence Force, echoed Wynn’s thoughts on collaboration, sharing how as a smaller nation New Zealand is able to leverage many opportunities for training and education through the ASG.

Agility on the commercial side enables the allied mission and drives the countries to be even more collaborative, Muir added.

“We need ongoing engagement with commercial vendors to consider alternative models for providing data—it might cost a bit more to buy products, but if you can share it that’s very quickly annulled,” Muir said. “That’s something [to consider] more deeply in the future.”

Featured Image: From left to right, Zaworski, USGIF CEO Keith Masback, Muir, Wynn, Francis, and Ng.

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