We caught up with Sam Gordy, president of Janes US, a defense intelligence firm based in Rosslyn, Virginia, to discuss the company’s role in GEOINT and what excites him most about the industry
trajectory: What is Janes’ role in the advancement of geospatial intelligence?
Gordy: To answer that question, you have to start with an understanding of what Janes is. We are a 125-year-old open-source intelligence agency. A man named Fred Janes started it and he began by gathering open-source information about the world’s capital ships. He wanted to know things like: How big are the guns? Are they 8-inch guns? Are they 10-inch guns? What’s the range? What’s the size of the shell? What’s the armor plating? How fast can they go? He was fascinated with that type of information so that’s how Janes actually got its start.
Today, we’re a global open-source intelligence agency with analysts around the world. All of the information they’re gathering, verifying, and validating is being stored in what we call Intara, which is online, API-accessible, and completely integrated with millions of data links. So how does this advance geospatial intelligence? We provide the intelligence layer within basic GEOINT. And because all this data is online, unclassified, and broadly shareable, it gives you that instantaneous linkage, and then everything that comes along with it.
What solutions and services does Janes provide?
We break down open-source intelligence into four broad capabilities. The first is equipment intelligence: air, land, and sea equipment. (Going all the way back to Fred Janes, we still do ships!) We do tanks, trucks, armored fighting vehicles, artillery, aircraft, and more. Then we do country intelligence, which is a very broad country assessment. It looks at the political situation, military, the economy, socioeconomic demographic information, even down to infrastructure, and what kind of logistic capabilities they have. What’s the military capability of that country? How do they train? What are they capable of doing from a combat perspective? The third thing we look at is what we call economic statecraft, which considers how countries use their economic power to influence the world stage. And the last category we have is threat intelligence, which is a lot of that similar data, but very specifically looking at it through that national security threat lens. So we’re looking at military capability with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, terrorism, insurgency, and more, and looking at what the threat is to any given country around the world. Those are the four capabilities. And then we provide those capabilities as a product or solution as a subscription service through Intara. It’s system agnostic so you can integrate it into any existing system platform or tool that you have.
Who are your main customers?
As you would expect, our largest customers are in the defense and intelligence space, including the Army, Navy, and Marines. Then we have our commercial customers, which span across the Defense Industrial Base. Our smallest group of customers is academia, which typically consists of students and researchers in the aerospace and defense industry, or it’s on the international relations side of the house. We’ve been around for a long time, so we’ve got a lot of customers.
What makes your Janes unique? What distinguishes your company in the geospatial industry?
There are a lot of people out there who will claim to be doing open-source intelligence, but what they’re really doing is gathering open-source data. They’re gathering all that data, they might be collating it, they might be building it into various categories, but they’re not really doing intelligence tradecraft on top of it with that data. That’s what Janes is doing. And you can imagine over 125 years, we’ve gotten really good at it. What truly makes us unique is that we are bringing together a combination of Janes experts across the world and incredible technology to provide global coverage that you can trust. At the end of the day, isn’t that what intelligence is all about? It needs to be timely, relevant, and trustworthy, and that’s what Janes brings to the table.
What excites you most about the future of GEOINT?
Increasingly, open-source intelligence has been recognized as a critical component of that geospatial intelligence layer. In the old days, back to when I started out my career in the intelligence community, if it wasn’t classified at the highest level, it wasn’t good information. We’ve changed our view on that. And we’re recognizing that open source is an equally important layer to that intelligence picture. Also exciting is the technology, with advanced data architectures, API’s, and cloud computing, which allows the geospatial analyst to rapidly ingest and integrate not just their geospatial data, but that open-source intelligence and other components into their geospatial analysis.
What is your involvement with USGIF?
On a personal level, I’ve been attending GEOINT Symposium since its days back in New Orleans. The only time I wasn’t there was during COVID. As for Janes, we’ve been a sustaining member for two years now.
What’s next for Janes?
Going forward, we’ll continue to expand our capabilities and contributions to open-source intelligence. We hope to add new capabilities to new areas of coverage. Do we look into space? Into cyber? What other areas could we get into? New products will, of course, follow. We’re still at the beginning from that perspective.