By Ken White, Office of Corporate Communications, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (www.nga.mil), Bethesda, Md.
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Letitia A. Long outlined the agency’s three-way transformation of geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) during the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s GEOINT 2012 Symposium in Orlando, Fla.,Oct. 9, 2012.
Long took the stage amid applause from thousands of attendees, following a good-natured introduction as the “goddess of GEOINT” by Joan A. Dempsey, who sits on the foundation’s board of directors.
“This is a group of folks that [is] transforming GEOINT,” said Long. “The talent, the capabilities and the diversity that is in this room is exactly what we need to continue to propel us forward.”
Long focused on NGA’s progress toward “creating tomorrow’s NGA today.” She specifically highlighted three key areas: easy and intuitive access to the agency’s GEOINT products, data and knowledge; creation of a three-tiered customer service model in an open information technology (IT) environment; and the creation and provision of new value through efforts to deepen and broaden analysis.
“We’ve made tremendous progress delivering more robust content, [we] have developed the integrated analytic environment, [we] are introducing new analytic methodologies, and, at the end of the day, I think we are delivering better GEOINT,” claimed Long.
Outlining the streamlining effort that to date has made 40 percent of NGA’s products, data and knowledge service-enabled, Long followed up with a pledge to have 100 percent of the agency’s data service-enabled in a smart data framework—cataloged and in accordance with Open Geospatial Consortium standards—by July 2013. She continued by explaining how that effort is a key enabler to the better analysis sought under the 2012–2017 NGA Strategy.
“I will tell you [that] the real benefit for the analysts is now, with that enabled data, they can overlay different data sets and begin to see those patterns and trends that we’re talking about,” explained Long.
She went on to weave in joint NGA/Defense Intelligence Agency progress to create the common desktop environment that forms part of the intelligence community IT enterprise, defense intelligence and joint information enterprises. For the common desktop initiative, she pledged to have more than 2,000 users in the environment by March 2013 and more than 60,000 users by March 2014.
“We’ve moved from cooperation to coordination to collaboration, and, now, we are at integration,” related Long. “We recognize we are a lot better if we share our information and work in the same integrated information technology environment. No more tunneling through networks. No more trying to find a computer that belongs to your own agency.”
In return for service-enabled content and the open IT environment, Long served up the challenge to the community that serves to gain from not only being consumers but also producers.
“What I ask in return is when you do access it and make enhancements or build a product or add to it, that you share that back with us,” said Long. “That will enable us to learn. That will enable us to provide better service in the future. And, in return, we will host it and serve it back out to the entire community.”
Long went on to outline how her establishment of integrated work groups comprising functional and regional analysts has resulted in never-considered, innovative collection strategies and new information that’s beginning to pay dividends in broadened and deepened analysis she maintains is at the core of GEOINT transformation.
She also pointed out the natural outgrowth of the new organizational construct, where analysts couldn’t get to all the information they needed in one place with the tools at hand. That led to the creation of the integrated analytic environment.
“The basis of the integrated analytic environment is both places and activity,” said Long. “So it’s not only the ‘what,’ it’s also the ‘what is happening.’ That’s very key here, and it’s really exciting for [the analysts].”
Long concluded her remarks by stating that the state of GEOINT is as much a testament to the transforming efforts of other GEOINT leaders as her own.
“Admiral Dantone got the agency started,” said Long. “General King really brought the tribes together. DNI Clapper created GEOINT; he brought the imagery and the mapping together to what was really the purpose of creating the National Imagery and Mapping Agency to begin with. Admiral Murrett, rightly so, put us on a wartime footing.
“As I came into the job I knew we were in a good place, but I was focused on the future. We’ve got to be continually pushing ourselves so that we do remain at the forefront. We are always building the plane as we’re flying it, so to say, so we will continue to deliver to our varied customer set what they need, when they need it, how they need it.”
Editor’s Note: Thanks to the NGA Pathfinder staff for their assistance with this column.