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NGA’s mission towards ”smart” data highlighted at GeoInt 2012

Florida, US: The Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), Letitia A. Long, addressed participants at the 2012 GeoInt Symposium during the opening day of the event. In a Keynote Address, Ms Long provided highlights of NGA’s effort to foster tomorrow’s GeoInt today.

Director Long articulated the agency’s mission and role in bringing terrorists to justice and in supporting troops in the field, among various other activities. She also listed three primary goals of current efforts to improve the way NGA is seeking to streamline data access and improving content: easier overall access to content, providing access in an open environment and creating new value for users.

She stressed the importance of making NGA products, data and knowledge “easily usable” and said that the agency is 40 per cent on the way towards making its data “smart” or service enabled. The goal is to achieve 100 per cent by July of 2013. Benchmarks will include elimination of redundancy (ideally only 1 copy of everything), all data smart/service enabled, completely catalogued and supported by OGC standards. Overall, the burden on geospatial data analysts will be greatly reduced, with more availability for use rather than analysis.

A major development resides in the effort to establish an open IT environment, under the title of Intelligence Community IT Enterprise, or ICITE. ICITE (“eyesight”), a common desktop environment, will have 2,000 users by March of 2013 and over 60,000 users by March of 2014, according to Director Long. The ‘smart enabled’ system will allow users to find relevant data and get to applications across entities in a common cloud-based infrastructure. Furthermore, users will be able to serve themselves, doing “what they need to do,” said Long. She also urged users to share any improvements or additions to NGA data that resulted from access. By sharing and incorporating these improvements and additions into NGA’s hosted data, the agency will be better able to provide enhanced benefits to the intelligence community.

As an example of what the benefits of a ‘self service’ environment might look like, Director Long referred to recent experience involving Hurricane Isaac. She described how no hard copies were issued and how FEMA was able to reduce response time from a typical four to five weeks to 24 to 48 hours. A significant part of this trend is a new array of applications created by NGA. Director Long urged outside developers to create additional applications with NGA data so that eventually fully 75 per cent of all applications are created outside of the agency. The reason for this goal is simple, she said: innovation. More and better uses for data will arise from the innovative efforts of developers outside the agency, which will enable more focus on internal activities, such as enhanced training of analysts. She said that a competition model based on use rates and user ratings would determine which applications will be effective.

Long concluded by emphasising the importance of the open IT approach. She referred to NGA’s Integrated Working Groups currently involved in a variety of research activities aimed at increasing interaction, promoting the “Multi-Int” perspective, experimenting with new ways to solve problems, pushing integration and maximising the talents of analysts and developers. NGA’s vision is an Integrated Analytic Environment (IAE), web browser based, with content in place and a myriad of applications available from a ‘store.’

There are challenges, she noted, most related to entrenched culture and an unwillingness to consider different perspectives. Synchronisation of content is also a hurdle, but Director Long expressed confidence in the capabilities and enthusiasm of members in the geospatial intelligence community to successfully overcome these obstacles.

Source: Our Correspondent