Report on GEOINT Symposium 2008

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Industry News
Report on GEOINT Symposium 2008
By Susan Smith

The world of geointelligence has access to a plethora of technologies that the commercial world does not, and rightly so. In some areas, this world marches bravely into the future, while in others, it holds back. Blogs and other communication avenues that we have taken for granted for some time now are a new thing to media relations of the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), producers of GEOINT Symposium, perhaps because the chatty style of blogs has not been the style of geointelligence.

However, USGIF officially launched got geoint?, a “new blog covering all things related to geospatial intelligence training, technology and tradecraft” at the Nashville conference held at the Gaylord Grand Opryland Resort and Convention Center this past week.

The topic of what to share was part of the bigger topics being addressed at GEOINT 2008. The impending change in Administration in the White House was also of top concern.

click to enlarge [ Click to Enlarge ]
Hon. James R. Clapper, Jr., USDI
The Honorable James Clapper Jr., Under U.S. Secretary of Defense (intelligence) presented the opening keynote address to the 2,000-plus in attendance entitled: “Some (Geezer) ruminations on transitioning to the future.”

Clapper, who has had 45 years of service in the area of intelligence, talked about GEOINT themes and future, constant challenges and what the USGIF has accomplished in the five years since its founding. Currently the U.S. is involved in two wars – one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Yet there is also the more elusive war on terrorism that is harder to pin down.
Intelligence, Security and Reconnaissance (ISR) systems are the norm in both Afghanistan and Iraq. These systems range in size from hand-held devices to orbiting satellites. The term “ISR” also describes a market for these systems that can collect basic information for a wide range of analytical products; other systems are designed to acquire data for specific weapons systems. The uses of these systems vary; some are intended primarily to collect information of national interest to Washington-area agencies; others are “tactical” systems intended to support military commanders on the battlefield. They can be comprised of unclassified radar, sensor and/or specific intelligence equipment.

Areas GEOINT is working on include:

  • Executive order 12333
  • Defense intelligence strategy- extend/enhance/explore/enable
  • HUMINT form a humint/ counterintelligence center – professional development of people involved.
  • Integrated intelligence architecture.
  • Security clearance reform – reduce investigations to selective bases and as is standard, and reducing the amount of time it takes to get a clearance. President signed a key order which laid this out. There is a new plan to measure success in the White House.
  • Intelligence rebalancing

Future constant challenges include –

  • Integration, integration, integration
  • Commonwealth and coalition-based operation is going to be standard feature.
  • Persistence – eventually ISR is going to be an accepted commodity
  • Data “tidal wave” and PED – to include Airborne
  • Standards for data, products and services
  • Human terrain
  • Cyber
  • Biometrics

A topic of discussion was the recently canceled Broad Area Space-Based Imagery Collection program (BASIC), which involved the purchase of two 1.1 meter remote sensing satellites by the National Reconnaisance Office (NRO). The NGA did get consensus on the purchase, however, Congress decided that the urgency that had precipitated the program no longer existed. Admiral Murrett is continuing to lead a study on this purchase, and according to Clapper, “it shouldn’t take long.” Clapper was a huge proponent of commercial satellite imagery when it was introduced and states that an unclassified environment is invaluable for sharing both here and overseas.

Clapper’s concern that there would be less funding available for geointelligence because of the current economy slump was shared by other presenters. “I would try to champion the preservation of capabilities, keep the expertise and assemble capabilities, even at a smaller scale,” suggested Clapper. “I think there is sufficient recognition of the importance of ISR.” According to the Secretary of Defense, ISR saves lives.

ISR is the “centerpiece” of everything done in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Clapper. In a recent trip to the AOR (which includes Afghanistan and Iraq), he was impressed by what developments were most surprising and most gratifying, “In Iraq they are operating pretty much on their own with modest support from U.S. counterparts, but they don’t have ISR enablers. The planning it takes for what they do is heavily dependent on Geospatial intelligence. INSTIKI, a simple open source wiki program, is used widely there. Intelligence training for Iraqis is a huge effort, and the whole theme is to get Iraqis self sufficient so that the U.S. can take more of a support and systems role.

The need to share and leverage information with coalition elements is critical, and Clapper pointed to an Intelligence Fusion Center in the UK which is the NATO Framework organ, led and funded by the U.S. “They are sending some really good people to participate in this,” said Clapper. “We must engage coalition members and remove barriers to sharing.”

This is easier said than done, of course. Today’s adversary is not what it once was. Clapper reminded his audience that in the past the U.S. was dealing with “an industrial sized adversary with lots of things we could count on,” referring to the Cold War and the Soviets. “We don’t have those cyclical patterns now so the requirement has become finite, specific, a whole business of developing a pattern of life, so you have to solidly identify individuals. The reaction to that is to bring to bear all the disciplines and meld them in a way and have ability to study and watch very steadily and consistently and at the appropriate juncture go after with a view to lowering casualties.” We do great at determinable phases, noted Clapper, but we do need something beyond that, and intelligence to assist that will be effective.

The visibility of foreign companies’ interactions is a major challenge to the U.S., and how the country preserves its technologies, while at same time taking advantage of what foreign companies offer, presents an opportunity to set up some procedural mechanisms within the department.

During a press conference General Clapper stated that the next administration should look at industrial interactions with foreign countries – Engendering partnerships and taking advantage of technology where you can, while at the same time he noted there are intelligence and security issues.

“We need to look at how we look at technological innovations both ways. The whole way we regulate foreign ownership of US companies, regulate so it doesn’t interfere with positive business arrangements and secure US equities. We’re not adequately postured to do that in the way the world works today with globalization.”

The question was asked, Why would you think the budget would be cut when we have two wars on and terrorism to deal with?

Clapper said we have other crises such as economic, health care reform and environmental change to deal with. Intelligence capability is only part of the broader context of demands on the budget. “My sensing is that we’re probably in for a period of some entrenchment, maybe not of the magnitude of what was after the Cold War.”

“Regardless of who wins, there is recognition that intelligence will play a huge role in the safety and security of the nation,” said Clapper. It is up to Congress how much money will be allocated to national intelligence. He said he “would be surprised to see an increase” over the 2008 budget of $47.5 billion.

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