US: In next five years, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), US, will emphasise on mobile devices for dissemination and collection, an open information technology architecture and pursuit of new types of data. Success in these endeavours would lead to a two-way flow of data between the NGA and its customers in the field, which will change the nature of the agency’s intelligence products, observed an article published in SIGNAL Magazine.
“We are moving from a product-oriented agency to a service-oriented, information, knowledge-based agency,” said Letitia A. Long, Director of the NGA, in conversation with SIGNAL. She envisioned substantial changes coming over the next five years. “I see us operating in that total online digital environment where it is easy to access our information. Our partners are contributing information; we’re serving that back; and we’re in an environment where we have totally separated our data from our applications and our infrastructure, so we’re very agile,” she added.
Long explained that the NGA operates in three environments: the Top Secret, sensitive compartmented information that comprises most of the agency’s analysis; the Secret network, where warfighters operate; and the unclassified arena that is home to first responders—a major NGA customer group. The agency must be able to move information seamlessly across these three environments without compromising classified information.
Long cited the need for an intuitive, easy-to-use application along the lines of Google Earth or MapQuest. “I don’t want to turn every soldier into a GEOINT analyst,” she said. “There are a lot of basic applications—and basic support that we provide—that 20-somethings can do on their own and want to do on their own.”
Long observed that the operation that found and killed Osama bin Laden as a prime example of integrating GEOINT, signals intelligence (SIGINT) and human intelligence (HUMINT) from the start. NGA products are likely to be flavoured by new types of data. Complementing information from traditional sensors will be data from social media—“the human geography information”—that experts have been looking at for some time, Long states. “We’ve studied tribal and ethnic clans for years, but today they take on a different meaning when you have access to that information because of everything that is online—and [you have] the ability to look at that and overlay it with imagery or with geospatial information and look at how it changes over time.”
This type of intelligence especially is valuable for a situation such as the uprising in Syria. Long cites a demand for geospatial information on which parts of Damascus contain Christians, Sunnis, Alewites or Shia, and in which neighbourhoods have fighting that is taking place. Overlaying significant military activity with ethnic, tribal or religious data can be “extremely enlightening” to decision makers.