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Future belongs to GEOINT: Defence Undersecretary

US: In a keynote address during GEOINT 2011, Michael Vickers, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, US, said, “GEOINT is a critical, critical strength.” At the same time, he acknowledged budget realities and the need to be smart in meeting them. Looking at the future, Vickers believed the country’s GEOINT capabilities are much more aligned with America’s strategic needs than they have been in the past.

According to Vickers, GEOINT played a key role in the elimination or capture of senior and mid-level operatives in Al-Qaeda and those organisations that support or collaborate with it. This has been especially true this year, with a string of high-profile successes. The recent progress has been so good that Vickers issued a statement that the complete defeat of Al-Qaeda is now on the horizon. He added that full motion video has proven to be the basis for the counter-terrorism (CT) effort. “GEOINT has been absolutely essential to our CT success,” Vickers stressed.

As for other strategic objectives, the capabilities offered by advanced sensors and other technologies have also helped counter the threat from improvised explosive devices. Vickers added that commanders in Iraq now have access to more surveillance and reconnaissance data than at any other time in the war. In Afghanistan, 3D mapping has been done for a good chunk of the country and wide area surveillance assets now generate 53 terabytes of data every day.

Vickers state that GEOINT capabilities were used during Japanese earthquake. GEOINT technologies and techniques established the extent of the disaster and the shape of its aftermath. This allowed the governments of Japan, the US, and elsewhere to assess the situation, their response, and make needed adjustments. It also showed one of the strengths that the craft offers. “GEOINT frequently allows us to corroborate other sources,” Vickers opined.

As for the future, it consists of what are somewhat contradictory constraints. One is the budget, which is going to be tighter going forward than it has been in the past. Counteracting that is the fact that intelligence and special forces are going to be increasingly important. Also there is a need to develop enhanced cyber domain capabilities, and the use of unmanned aerial platforms will continue to grow. All of these trends require today’s GEOINT capabilities and more, which means results will have to be achieved for fewer bucks. The solution is to rationalise the GEOINT assets that have been developed in 10 years of war and adapt them to a new world, Vickers said. Some of the lessons that have been learned, such as how to implement rapid acquisition, will be carried forward. Others still have to be mastered, such as how to implement the needed organisational changes.

Source: KMI Media Group