USGIF Workshop Offers Preview of GEOINT 2013

September 4, 2013  - By 0 Comments

Two weeks ago, I attended a USGIF workshop in Huntsville sponsored by GEO Huntsville, through the considerable efforts of Directions Magazine Editor-in-Chief and Vice Publisher Joe Francica and his staff.  The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) is a non-profit dedicated to promoting the geospatial intelligence tradecraft across industry, academia, government, professional organizations and individual stakeholders.

 GEO Huntsville's Geospatial Intelligence (Geoint) Workshop was held August 14 at the Von Braun Center Civic Arena in Huntsville, Alabama.

GEO Huntsville’s Geospatial Intelligence (Geoint) Workshop
was held August 14 at the Von Braun Center Civic Arena in Huntsville, Alabama.

Keith Masback, USGIF

Keith Masback, USGIF chief executive officer.

The workshop was a collection of geospatial-related presentations starting with Keith Masback, the USGIF chief executive officer, who gave an interesting history of NGA based on his extensive experience in the geospatial community.  He reviewed that NGA had a somewhat shaky start that grew out a vision of Rear Admiral Bill Owens, which was part of the 1996 “Joint Vision 2010” that formed the concept of network-centric operations. Looking at the past, the Joint Vision participants saw that the future would require a new way of doing intel business. They determined that information had to be brought near the user, not at some distant command center. It would need to be as close to real time as possible. It would have to be precise and able to ID combat targets.  It would have to be integral with missile defense and provide detailed urban data.

So in 1996, the NIMA (National Imagery and Mapping Agency) was formed by combining the DMA (Defense Mapping Agency) and the CIO (Central Imagery Office).  The merging of mapping and imagery communities proved very difficult as the two cultures collided. Even the internal NIMA commission was bent on dissolving the marriage. Fortunately, after working through the issues, the commission came to the conclusion that the marriage was really in the best interest of the country and both communities.

It was also at the same time that Jim Clapper took over the week of 9/11. That event sharply focused everyone’s minds. General Clapper decided that the best way to unify the command was to get rid of the separate words “imagery” and “mapping” — thus was born the new title National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and to put it in the same company of other three-letter agencies, it was dubbed NGA. NGA really worked hard to meet the vision set in 1996.  Keith cited the Bin Laden apprehension as a good example.

He then explained how NGA felt it needed to evolve. He cited the example that our troops needed to be as location enabled as kids are with their mobile devices. Crowd sourcing is playing an ever-increasing roll, and despite the belief that the cyber world is locationless, location is a very real aspect of cyber warfare. Users have locations as well as servers and the interconnecting framework. Asymmetrical urban warfare demands even more precise location mapping, including building interiors. Keith cited Robert Scoble’s keynote at The Next Web Conference Europe as a must-view video by everyone in the geospatial community, to place his comments in context. Robert Scoble and Shel Israel are going to be keynote speakers at GEOINT 2013.

Additionally, although the military is taking a lion’s share of sequestration cuts, the two areas that are not seeing significant cuts because of WMDs are ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) and cyber. He said that some people question the need for geospatial capabilities in a cyber world, but he quickly cited that servers have locations, that networks have locations, and most hackers/persons of interest have locations, which also point to the growing need for indoor urban tracking of users. And all this takes on even more significance with the proliferation of WMDs.  Although not as immediate, NGA is also very supportive and promotes STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education so we maintain the pipeline of talent. He also talked about the growing drumbeat for geospatial intel certification, especially for contract work.

Randy Jones of the Missile and Space Command spoke of the much shorter timelines of intelligence and needed action, that we have a flood of information but have a poverty of attention. That there is a growing need for “object-based intelligence” or, as some refer to it, “activity-based intelligence.”  The flood of data is overwhelming analysts, and NGA is looking for increasingly sophisticated algorithms to sort the massive data collections. The are many opportunities for small, innovative companies in this arena to help DIA, NGA, and NSA.

Robert Zitz of SAIC gave his take on current actions in Washington. He quoted James Clapper as saying, “We’ve run out of money, so now we have to think.” He also cited Latisha Long that although DoD was seeing 5% sequestration cuts, DHS may see increases to its budget due to WMD and cyber concerns, specifically power, water and transportation. (As a side note, I harp to all my family members and friends the need to heed the DHS warning for all citizens to maintain a two-week supply of food and water in their home.)  There is also special attention being given to joint efforts of special operations, cyber security and border security.  Those intel dollars are increasing especially for real-time data collection, multi-int fusion and predictive analytics.

A representative from Sierra Nevada and L3 talked about wide area air surveillance (WAAS), specifically Gorgon Stare and the domestic manned aircraft version Vigilant Stare, which is also being linked with full-motion video. The key issue is analytics to filter and provide timely actionable intelligence.

MIC cameras from Bosch Security Systems feed a Coastal Remote Monitoring Program for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

MIC cameras from Bosch Security Systems feed a Coastal Remote Monitoring Program for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

A very clever use of lower cost, off-the-shelf hardware to solve a critical need was presented by Major Scott Bannon of the Alabama Marine Resources Division and Tim Erwin of Crystal Data International. Major Bannon’s small staff is tasked with monitoring more than 600 miles of Gulf Coastline. They installed a network of ruggedized video cameras, some in very remote locations, that were connected via a wireless network with all the cameras controlled by the users.  This is not much different than many systems seen in urban areas, but the challenge was building a  rugged system with some very remote locations lacking power or connectivity.  The cameras were geo-referenced on Google Earth and controllable by his staff from mobile devices.  Although the images are not directly geo-referenced, their position coupled with user knowledge permitted them to search and identify objects in the water accurately enough to task rescue assets to craft in distress. The night low-light imaging capability helped in several high-interest events.  A new version will provide accurate azimuth data recorded with the imagery.

Dr. Michael Botts presented his work to develop common standards for web enablement of sensors. SML (Sensor Markup Language) is being backed by the OGC to permit sensor web enablement (SWE). See the OGC website for more details.

The workshop was closed by Sandra Broadnax, the NGA Small Business Programs director.  Her presentation was probably the best received session because of her infectious enthusiasm. She explained how NGA Director Long was extremely supportive of small business innovations and contributions to the intelligence community. She explained how NGA maintains a very comprehensive list of changing requirements on both the high and low sides. She strongly encouraged all geospatial firms to monitor the NGA site, since there were many opportunities that are not published in FedBizOps. At the session she wasted no time building connections by identifying those who had SCIFs in Huntsville and those who might need access so they could view and respond to classified requirements.

So, the key topics that I believe will dominate GEOINT 2013 are:

  • Persistent wide area air surveillance
  • Social media, big data, human geography
  • Every individual a consumer and provider of intel data
  • “Object” or “Activity” based intelligence, even inside buildings
  • Integration of real-time actionable intelligence to users in the field
  • The geospatial links of cyber threats

As you can see, even in the short span of one year, the geospatial community continues to evolve significantly. I’m going to attend GEOINT 2013 in October and the GaTech Research Institute GIS conference Spatial Plexus in November.  If you see me, please introduce yourself.

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Art Kalinski

About the Author:

A career Naval Officer, Art Kalinski established the Navy’s first geographic information system (GIS) in the mid-1980s. Completing a post-graduate degree in GIS at the University of North Carolina, he was the Atlanta Regional Commission GIS Manager from 1993 to 2007. He pioneered the use of oblique imagery for public safety and participated in numerous disaster-response actions including GIS/imagery support of the National Guard during Hurricane Katrina; the Urban Area Security Initiative; a NIMS-based field exercise in Atlanta; and a fully manned hardware-equipped joint disaster response exercise in New York City. Kalinski retired early from ARC to join Pictometry International to direct military projects using oblique imagery, which led to him joining SPGlobal Inc. He has written articles for numerous geospatial publications, and authors a monthly column for the GeoIntelligence Insider e-newsletter aimed at federal GIS users.

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