National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Director Robert Cardillo addressed the International Space Symposium last week in Colorado Springs, Colo., sharing some of his objectives and initiatives that will help transform the agency.
According to the director’s remarks, the shift is being driven by three fundamental changes:
1. The explosion of data from social media, smallsats and the Internet of Things that speak to the agency’s potential.
2. Enterprise capacity that has undergone rapid and radical advancement with the advent of cloud technology and “big data” analysis.
3. Resources that center on people who embrace diversity, adopt new workforce strategies, transform outdated government processes and master new tradecraft methods.
The director spoke to rapid global changes and the need to more quickly see and sense global threats through persistent observation. With the nimbleness of today’s threats, he stated the agency needs to go from sensing to understanding and from understanding to anticipating.
Cardillo appreciates the rapid commoditization and commercialization of geospatial technology. As a result of this shift, he’s launching an unclassified program called GEOINT Pathfinder. The project involves creating a team of data scientists, application developers, open-source researchers, methodologists and analysts that will work at a network of in-house labs and off-site locations. Their aim will be to deliver high-quality unclassified geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) to customers on mobile devices, with a focus on answering intelligence questions.
The new director has a long history of working within the agency and on the customer side, eager to consume the latest GEOINT. He stated he sees the need for dramatic change, making a shift that embraces a wide variety of data sources, deeper partnerships with commercial industry, new fleets of collectors and evolving technical means.
Cardillo outlined five objectives with which he would like help from industry and practitioners.
“My challenge to you is to bring us your answers to these priorities:
One, accelerate data to answers. I envision a future where we will move from analyzing Big Data toward realizing the potential of Fast Data.
Thus, we need to invest in a near-real-time, small satellite-based analytic system that continuously streams data from hundreds of platforms, pre-analyzes that content, and delivers that change within minutes of collection.
Two, we need sensors, systems, algorithms, and tools that synthesize the full electromagnetic spectrum, open sources, and integrated intelligence in real time in a geospatial context.
We will build a self-organizing enterprise to replace the traditional collection process.
It will comprise continuous feedback, collaboration, and integration among sensors, automated processors, advanced analytics, and analytic and collection models.
The smallsat constellation will continuously image thousands of facilities and activities across countries and continents—true global coverage.
A major part of this effort will be ensuring the success of the IC Information Technology Enterprise—IC ITE. IC ITE is well on its way to solving issues with security management, cross-domain services, and integration of new sources.
Three, we must fully leverage nontraditional sources, especially open sources, and integrate them continuously in real-time with all of our other capabilities.
We must do so throughout the day, all night, in all weather conditions, every day of the year, across the spectrum of sensors in the face of sophisticated denial and deception and both natural and man-made interference.
Four, we must embrace secure automated systems throughout the environment. They will be driven by learning-based analytic models and state-of-the-art collection platforms.
Five, and as I have stressed, the most important element of all is the people.
We must transform our GEOINT cadre by recruiting, retraining, and retaining technically savvy GEOINT professionals to work in a host of new or transformed occupations.
We must develop them into subject matter experts who will lead integrated virtual teams of data scientists, artificial intelligence assistants, and source experts.
And, we must embrace the same openness with our workforce that we are envisioning with our work.
We want our officers to move in and out of the private sector and work across government agencies during the course of their careers. We want them to acquire the breadth of experience and the depth of knowledge that will allow them to see challenges from different perspectives and to develop new understanding.
As I hope you can see, NGA is accelerating our progress as quickly as we can. But only you can create and deliver the innovative capabilities that we must have.”