The Military’s Third Offset Strategy and the Revolution in GEOINT

Gaylord Palms, Orlando, Florida, May 16, 2016

Introduction – GEOINT is Critical to the Military’s Third Offset Strategy

It’s great to be here in Orlando this morning. Thank you Joan Dempsey for the warm introduction. Jeff Harris, my hat is off to you and the rest of the USGIF board for your support to industry, government, and education across the GEOINT community. Thanks to Keith Masback and the USGIF leadership and staff for once again putting on this great symposium and thank you for inviting me to attend. Keep up the great work.

NGA leadership – Robert, Sue, Wyman and your senior team -- thank you for your stewardship of this GEOINT community. You lead GEOINT in standards development, cutting edge research, innovative commercial partnerships, and new tradecraft. Within NGA, you have over 1,000 personnel co-located in partner facilities around the world, including combatant commands, military services, embassies, intelligence agencies, and foreign partners. You give me great confidence in the future health of GEOINT. 

It is a privilege to return again and speak at this year’s GEOINT Symposium. Just like you, I’m looking forward to hearing from so many voices of leaders of the GEOINT enterprise over the next few days – Robert Cardillo, Jim Clapper, Betty Sapp, Michael Lumpkin, Steve Welby, Winston Beauchamp, Doug Loverro, and of course in a few minutes Parag Khanna – each pointing to the key trends shaping the important work ahead.

Last year I closed the conference as a final keynote speaker. This year I’m honored to kick-off the formal portion of this year’s conference – framing the conference with some of the thinking from the Pentagon’s leadership on how the revolution in GEOINT can contribute to the military’s Third Offset Strategy.

As you know, as Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, I am responsible for shaping the application of intelligence to military needs. I serve as the Secretary of Defense’s principal intelligence advisor, oversee $17 billion in military intelligence program funding as well as other related capabilities in the battlespace awareness areas, and shape a 110,000 person civilian and military workforce across the 8 defense intelligence components of the Intelligence Community. 

My priorities are to focus on integrating this enterprise, on ensuring it effectively contributes to current military operations, and on building innovative new capabilities for the future.

Over the last four months, I have had the occasion to visit some of our US military and defense intelligence team across 16 countries on five continents to baseline our contributions. Afghanistan. Iraq and the Middle East. North Africa. Across Europe’s eastern flanks. The Asia-Pacific. One trip was an under-the-radar visit into northeastern Syria with our special operations forces to assess our counter-ISIL efforts there. Another trip allowed me to fly with our United States Air Force conducting routine reconnaissance over the South China Seas, just as we have done for years, in support of freedom of navigation and commerce, international norms, and the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific.

Without question, one of the biggest takeaways of all of these visits was how central GEOINT is to our day-to-day military operations. Now more than any other time in our history, GEOINT plays a critical role in informing our defense leaders to make sound decisions, and in our military commanders’ ability to deter our adversaries and, should deterrence fail, enable us to defeat the enemy. Today, global imaging, communications, and precision navigation and timing are deeply enmeshed in our joint operations -- central to our deterrence, assurance, and warfighting. Without robust intelligence capabilities to enable decision advantage to our operational forces, our ability to fight and win would be severely compromised. 

Geostrategic competitors seek to challenge the United States’ ability to fight and win a high-end, contested fight by attempting to roll back our ISR advantages and eliminating our historical asymmetric advantages. They benefit from the ubiquity of technology that has enabled them to rapidly improve their air, space and terrestrial-based ISR. In fact, our near-peer competitors may seek to turn the table on us by choosing their own asymmetric ways to put us off balance.

Key among potential adversaries’ anti-access/area-denial, or A2AD, strategies is to deny, degrade, and disrupt our ISR capabilities across all domains. Potential adversaries attempt to confuse and complicate our intelligence gathering and exploitation efforts by using capabilities like camouflage, concealment, decoys, land-mobile air defense systems, and ballistic and cruise missiles.

Over the last 18 months Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work have set in motion a Third Offset Strategy to counter our adversaries advanced technology proliferation, recognizing the powerful strategic effects that came from our earlier offsetting advantages -- first, in nuclear deterrence, and second, in global command and control, precision strike, and stealth. In a Third Offset, we seek broad-based strategic advantage through new technologies as well as new operating concepts – investing in new tools and capabilities as well as how to creatively use them.

In order to achieve success in the Third Offset Strategy, the defense intelligence enterprise will play a central role, leveraging the GEOINT community’s ability to innovate and drive change.

A few examples of areas important to the Third Offset Strategy where GEOINT will play a leading role include: advanced data analytics, human and machine teaming, deep learning capabilities, all-source model-driven collection management, and machine-to-machine tipping-and-cueing.

Today I’ll touch on four current focus areas we at the Pentagon are emphasizing as particularly key to GEOINT’s contributions to the military’s Third Offset Strategy:

• GEOINT Transformation
• Survivable and Resilient Space
• Commercial Partnerships, and
• Coalition Integration

First: GEOINT Transformation

First, GEOINT transformation.

The GEOINT community forms the heart of our ISR architecture, influencing and pushing sensor development, collection, processing, and analytic tradecraft.

You have been on the front end of initial employments of LIDAR, Hyperspectral Imagery, Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) and wide area motion imagery (WAMI), just to name a few of the exciting advancements in phenomenology over the last several years.

Just over the last ten days, I visited a range of key nodes in our enterprise where GEOINT innovation is happening – in visits to NGA’s New Campus East, to NRO’s headquarters in Chantilly, and, yes, at DIA at Bolling and at NSA at Ft. Meade.

A few days ago, one of our key Five Eyes partners, New Zealand Chief of Defence Intelligence Brigadier John Howard, and I visited the 480th ISR Wing at Langley Air Force Base, another node in our enterprise where some incredible innovation is underway in allowing real-time access to ISR mission data and content, as well as the ability to overlay other geospatially-enabled products with live FMV sensor feeds. A very powerful capability and a great harbinger of things to come.

By the way, Brigadier Howard is here at this conference today – as I am sure are all of our Five Eye and other close partners – an indicator of how focused we all are on harnessing the power of GEOINT in the years ahead.

As we look ahead, it is clear that this GEOINT community is leading further transformation that will bring real solutions to the needs of the military and the warfighter.

One transformation underway is the movement from pixels to services – that is, from a model of providing military operators with pictures…to providing them with GEOINT insights.

This means developing artificial intelligence systems that use historical and real-time data from multiple sources and domains, identify key information needs based on an operational
commander’s requirements, and automatically initiate collection to fill knowledge gaps. In the GEOINT realm, much of this is captured in the concepts of Activity-Based Intelligence, or ABI – and the Object-Based-Production (OBP) and Structured-Observation-Management (SOM) that feeds ABI.

The tasking and collection components of ABI must operate autonomously at machine-to-machine speeds, using all available data and collection resources to predict where an activity of interest will occur and drive the collection and processing of relevant information at greater speeds. Object-Based-Production will give our analysts precious time back to allow them to focus on analysis.

Transforming GEOINT also means bringing in more sources of information than ever before – including openly-available geospatial information. In this regard, the Pathfinder work NGA began last year and continues today with Pathfinder II offers real opportunities to explore the boundaries of what’s available to the community in freely available open source environments.

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