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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
Notes from the GEOINT 2007 Symposium
by Susan Smith
Last week I attended the GEOINT 2007 Symposium in San Antonio. This symposium, spawned by the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), was first held in November 2004 in New Orleans where it drew 1,500 attendees. This year, the symposium attracted over 3,200 attendees, and is heralded as the nation’s “premier intelligence event.”
The symposium attracts an audience of intelligence and defense professionals. The theme of the symposium, “Integration for Collaboration: Enabling a Seamless Enterprise,” was divided up into blocks, which included keynote speakers, panels and interoperability demonstrations.
Rich Haver, VP of Intelligence Programs for Northrop Grumman, was the master of ceremonies for the first block on Monday morning, entitled: “Supporting the Warfighter.” Haver spoke about the need for more partnership between industry and government. There is an “Abundance of resources to get geospatial information, need for better collection and to get value out of it. We can do better with what we have, need to find the way to do that. Part of it is in the private sector. While government can come up with the ideas, it’s industry that builds the systems and tools.”
Haver also said that this year, the USGIF Educational program awarded 12 scholarships totaling $54,000 to students who are studying GEOINT in universities.
The keynote was delivered by Gen. James E. Cartwright , U.S. Marine Corps, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, who stated that we are struggling to know how to move forward. He cited three types of planning:
- Threat based planning – based on current perceived threat.
- Capabilities based planning acknowledges you don’t know what the enemy is, and what they come at you with
- Resource planning
Cartwright said that the incentive structure needs to be changed. There is not a technical architecture and no one incentivized to use it.
“You still have to connect with the threat, but do you know what the threat is when you build an aircraft carrier today that’s supposed to last until 2050? And what if your crystal ball is wrong?”
The need for “persistent surveillance” was raised, in order to get geospatial information to the war fighter. The analysts generally get the information, but it’s difficult to get it to the war fighter. The armed forces are placing more geospatial professionals amongst the war fighters, so that they will have this information.
A frightening thought, but one that resonated with everyone in the audience: “There is not going to be a peace dividend on this war, think of it as a hundred year war. What capabilities do we need to fight that war?”
- Signal intelligence (sigint) is one of the greatest cuers. “It’s relatively pervasive persistent and has a lot of capability to be converted. We’ve got to move that and start to cue our sensors, broad area and match to a weapon.”
- Full motion optical video, which is creating a track file. This would be another way of getting information to the war fighter.
Click to Enlarge ]
CartaLens from National Geographic and MetaCarta
In the Q&A session following the keynote, the question was asked:
Q: The geospatial component of information has been stovepiped. How do we elevate geospatial?
“Horizontal integration,” said Cartwright. “It’s a cultural problem, not a technical issue. Over the last two or three years, we worked hard to remove technical barriers. We did a lot on data protocols that have removed technical boundaries. How do we decide who the customer is vs. who is the protector of information?. Change the incentive structure from those who provide to those who consume. What does it take to move product to customer inside timelines?”
“It’s hard to move a large institution from threat-based to capabilities based. It is long overdue. People are pushing at it. These technical architectures have an element associated with government, industry and Congress. Until we can get incentive structures aligned across all those structures, it won’t work.”
“The boundaries that live between the ints live between the committees also. The good news in some of the legislation coming forward, is that there is a growing awareness of this challenge inside Congress and a willingness to take it on. You can’t look at an integrated collection architecture without looking at it aligned across structures.”
Q: Has classification been a barrier to international collaboration?
“We have to be able to differentiate between what we want to keep secret and the perishability of that information vs. a one size fits all construct. SkyWeb is a web based collaboration tool to share operations intelligence. England and Australia bought their own application. We finished an application that allows us to share. My intent over the next year is to put fire back into this discussion. When it’s available and there are schemes there to protect what we have to protect, then not sharing is unacceptable.”
“The perfect operating picture is the SkyWeb application, with the idea that you do not have a database, but a tool that goes out with a set of search engines, finds information and displays it, but the customer decides what they want to know, akin to Google, or My Yahoo. These are the tools that allow people to find what they want to know and use that information.”
Panel Discussion – View from Down Range
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey C. Horne, U.S. Army
Col. Bill Harmon, U.S. Army
Col. Keith A. Lawless, U. S. Marine Corps
Mr. William J. Farr, Chief Geospatial Information and Services, Deputy Chief of Staff, G2, U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USAOC)
Horne spoke about effects based thinking. Terrorists are well resourced, motivated, mobile and de-centralized. The U.S. intelligence has been 4-6 months behind terrorists in the ability to find or apprehend them. “We are now focused on massing the effect on that person, and on the battlefield, and also have to effect the populace.”
Referring to the fast pace of information, Horne stated, “30% of what it took to do your job today will be irrelevant in three years.”
He also said that “fusion cells are killer applications,” meaning perhaps a fusion of processes, intelligence agencies’ geospatial information, and cultures.
Col. Bill Harmon has just recently returned from Iraq. He stated that showing trends over time helps a situation come to life for the decision maker. He listed some highlights of geospatial information:
1) Most products are made to use within 24 hours
2) Most information is made to be merged. Fusion centers are good, and information is better if shared.
3) Experts sent to help in Iraq and Afghanistan.
4) Commercial imagery allows for sharing with other countries.
5) Forensic analysis is useful for fusing information in databases.
There are many fleeting targets, which highlights the need to adapt quickly. Information needs to come alive onscreen, and users must have the ability to switch layers on and off.
Col. Keith Lawless recalled that during Desert Storm there were almost no interagency efforts, and no system support, so they created their own geospatial products. During Iraqi Freedom, they began to see more usage, with 3D visualization products prevailing. During Katrina, the NCIA had significant geospatial capability.