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The Advance of GEOINT December 28, 2008

Posted by Bahadir Sahin in English, Haber (News).
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More than a decade and a half ago as a pilot in Desert Storm, I sat down to plan a mission with a map on my knee board. At the time, I remember thinking I needed a fused product that would allow me to see the imagery overlay of geospatial information with up-to-date imagery intelligence. Only later did I come to realize the product was one manifestation of what we today know as geospatial intelligence (GEOINT).

Over the years I have come to admire the commitment, flexibility and can-do spirit of the employees of NGA and our predecessor agencies. Time and time again, they have demonstrated the strong desire to make sure our mission partners have the information they need when they need it, in order to make key decisions and to solve today’s toughest intelligence challenges. Our people have built more than an agency. We have led the way for the emergence of the GEOINT discipline and ensured the success of the GEOINT tradecraft. With the establishment of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) in 1996, eight separate organizations were combined to bring together the nation’s most capable imagery and geospatial assets. NIMA’s creation provided a critical fusion of skills and technologies to expand the GEOINT discipline under one mission umbrella.

In 2000, we began to experiment with fusing imagery, imagery intelligence and geospatial information. This conceptual experiment gained significant momentum after Sept. 11, 2001. We were among the first to answer the call for unified intelligence operations that were at the forefront of the nation’s consciousness. Today we are expanding the GEOINT footprint, pushing forward in fusing GEOINT with other intelligence disciplines and exploiting the digital environment. Our goal is to make sure policymakers, warfighters, and other end users have the GEOINT advantage. Whether our partners need a hardcopy map, a physical model, 3-D visualization or fused intelligence, NGA is there to give them the critical edge.

Looking Forward
As we move forward, GEOINT shows the way! Our future is extremely bright, thanks to our ability to meet the ever-increasing need for relevant and responsive GEOINT in a time of unprecedented global change. NGA and our partners learn daily through the ongoing war against violent extremism and combat operations how to cooperate, share and fuse data. NGA has a forward-deployed strategy that puts our people with our mission partners on their ground and operating on their terms. The impact of this strategy has been tremendous. As Vice Adm. Murrett and I travel the world, we receive accolades and appreciation for the difference the NGA workforce, and the relevant, timely and actionable intelligence they deliver, is making on the frontline.

That said, the GEOINT community always has room to grow and challenges to face, so we cannot rest on our laurels. We must view every challenge as an opportunity to excel and to move GEOINT into new arenas. I would like to highlight six opportunities that will move us forward.

Balancing Mission Requirements
There is the ever-present need to balance time-dominant with non-time-dominant mission requirements. This means we must maintain a constant vigilance and reprioritize resources as needed. It also requires NGA personnel to maintain a sense of urgency, while pacing ourselves for the long haul. Remember – this is not a sprint; it is a marathon. It is entirely probable that we will be fighting the forces of violent extremism for several decades to come.

Increasing Partnerships
NGA cannot accomplish our mission alone. We need our existing partnerships, and we need new ones. We are managing more agreements and providing more data to more users than ever before. The good news – GEOINT is getting into the hands of those who need it. The bad news – many more users still need GEOINT and either do not know they need it or do not yet have the capability to get it. Spread the word!

Recruiting, Training and Retaining a World-class Workforce
As demand for GEOINT continues to grow, NGA must keep the outstanding workforce we have and attract the best and brightest to meet future requirements. Over the next 12 months, NGA will conduct an aggressive hiring campaign to reinforce our great workforce. The insertion of new hires will undoubtedly bring new energy, new ideas and new talent to our agency and our mission. The goal is to hire the right people with the right skill sets to meet the demands of today, tomorrow and beyond.

Expand Industry and Academic Engagement
GEOINT’s way ahead is grounded in our people, but it has a technological angle, too. We must continue to expand our industry and academic engagement to develop innovative solutions. We will put the best minds of government together with the brightest minds in industry and academia to solve the toughest challenges. For example, with the exponential increase in terabytes of information, one of our biggest challenges today is managing, storing and retrieving information. We need industry and academia to help us identify ways to address these challenges – and they will.

Protect Our Research and Development Investment
NGA remains committed to maintaining a strong research and development program. Our challenge is balancing the budget to address all competing requirements. For example, as sources of data increase, so does our drive to evolve to a sensor-neutral architecture. NGA must stay on the forefront, ready and able to adapt, exploit, and use the data collected from all possible sources, develop a common ground and community information technology and assist in providing multi-intelligence (multi-INT) fusion capabilities. Future phenomenologies like hyperspectral, multispectral and polarimetric imagery will help unlock the toughest intelligence problems.

Deploying the Mission to New Campus East
New Campus East (NCE) provides the first opportunity for GEOINT to truly have a new mission home in the East. Like our sister agencies, NGA will now benefit from bringing our forces together and working with the Commonwealth and other agency representatives in the same facility. The next 18 months are critical to our success in moving the GEOINT mission forward. The importance of our core sites in St. Louis and Arnold, Mo., will be even greater during and after our mission deployment to NCE. These locations are key to dispersed operations, breadth of mission and continuity of efforts.

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