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Ireson DerekFor the past decade – especially in the wake of the devastating 9/11 attacks – the provision of real-time, actionable intelligence to the security services and to the warfighter has been a major goal for the intelligence community. The proliferation of geospatial data – whether from UAVs, LiDAR, remote sensing or commercial satellite imagery – has provided more sources of information than ever before and continues to move the community one step closer to its goal. But it is becoming increasingly more challenging to make this data truly ‘actionable.’ The reality is that the most valuable data can be overlooked or end up on the cutting room floor.

Ireson DerekFor the past decade – especially in the wake of the devastating 9/11 attacks – the provision of real-time, actionable intelligence to the security services and to the warfighter has been a major goal for the intelligence community. The proliferation of geospatial data – whether from UAVs, LiDAR, remote sensing or commercial satellite imagery – has provided more sources of information than ever before and continues to move the community one step closer to its goal. But it is becoming increasingly more challenging to make this data truly ‘actionable.’ The reality is that the most valuable data can be overlooked or end up on the cutting room floor.

More intelligence options require greater sophistication in information collection and sharing and, most importantly, the timely application of the right information to the right user at the right time. By successfully fusing data from multiple sources into an integrated geospatial environment and sharing information through on-demand geo-processing, rapid production of maps and digital geospatial data, warfighters can receive actionable intelligence wherever, whenever and however it is needed. Also, by integrating and leveraging these investments, agencies can overcome the challenges presented by declining budgets and the increasing demand for efficiencies, while still achieving greater effectiveness for those who rely on intelligence for mission success.

Moving Away from Data Silos and Stovepipes

Over the past several decades, departmental “silos” and organizational stovepipes have created separations that delay or limit the use and delivery of valuable information. The concept of a breakdown between inter- and intra-organizational stovepipes is not entirely new to the intelligence community. The 9/11 attacks in 2001 were a major wake up call for governments to enhance the ability to share information across organizations. Similar challenges exist within the military, in theaters of operation such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where the technical challenges of putting the right data into the right hands at the right time can mean the difference between life and death.

However, the global intelligence and defense organizations are often bound by the limitations of the technologies they procure. Part of the challenge of these “silo-ed” environments is that they each operate disconnected and often fragmented geospatial systems. Often, large organizations with multiple “silos” need to deal with three to four geospatial software vendors with each product being built in complete isolation. These disparate products have their own GUIs, workflows, licensing, contracts and training manuals. Agencies and end users run into significant challenges when trying to connect all these products, resulting in incomplete workflows and incomplete tasks.

Moving Toward True Multi-INT Capabilities

For military organizations to gain a complete operational picture, they require the integration of data from multiple sensors into a complete geospatial environment for true multiple intelligence (Multi-INT) capabilities. Multi-INT exploitation enables warfighters to interact with data in multiple ways to meet their unique needs.

By embracing data from all sources and better managing the complete lifecycle of geospatial information, agencies can break down the silos and make tremendous strides in uniting all geospatial genres for enhanced Multi-INT exploitation. By uniting GIS, remote sensing and photogrammetry capabilities for desktop, server and web environments, agencies can leverage a streamlined system for seamlessly delivering geographic information to the warfighter. 

An all-in-one solution can also provide tremendous cost savings during a time of decreasing military and intelligence budgets. The end result is one integrated environment for creating dynamic spatial models, which produce valuable information for the intelligence community. More importantly, with the connected workflows between the desktop and the server, these types of lifecycle solutions deliver on-demand information wherever required — from the desktop, through the server and to users on the web and on mobile devices.

Of course, this is easier said than done. It requires not only the geospatial applications to be interoperable both between and across the various technology stacks and vendors, but the data they share to be based on common, open standards and the infrastructure must be capable of providing the high bandwidths necessary for true Multi-INT information fusion.

A New Era of GEOINT

With the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) embracing more of a customer-driven environment, the industry is being driven to provide better solutions, which, in turn, benefit the warfighter. The concept of “On-Demand GEOINT,” which is reinforced by NGA’s new mobile app store, is making access to geospatial data as easy as downloading an app onto a smartphone or tablet. 

This more elegant and streamlined approach is driven by a modern renaissance in how technologies are moving towards cloud-based solutions, as well as web, mobile and tablet maps. Ease-of-use allows the end user to derive information more efficiently. 

For many decades, industry solutions were built upon dated interfaces and were cumbersome to manage — often requiring highly trained GIS staff. By embracing modern interfaces and user experiences and better sharing geospatial information with non-technical users, the industry and agencies can modernize the geospatial experience, ushering in a new era of geospatial intelligence that helps organizations better leverage geography and use it to help solve the world’s complicated challenges. 

Budget Pressures

It’s no secret that agencies must do more with less because of the global economic problems and their impact on governments. The concept of advancing the mission with less budgetary resources is becoming the new reality. Budget cuts could be potentially devastating, especially in the face of heightened threats. 

For example, with proposed U.S. defense budget cuts at $500 billion over the next 10 years, and with similar levels of budget cutting within Europe’s defense organisations and elsewhere, sacrifices will need to be made by both the Department of Defense, as well as by its vast network of industry partners. However, no matter what happens during budget negotiations and the crafting of legislation, the mission of protecting populations against terrorist threats, responding to catastrophic events, and deploying military units for multi-national operations will exist. Intelligence professionals will continue to face unprecedented challenges, making critical decisions in highly stressful, dynamic environments. 

That’s why breaking down the silos and embracing a new era in geospatial intelligence through better technologies and new ways of delivering solutions is so critical. Taken together they enable both mission effectiveness and agency efficiencies. 

By better managing the full lifecycle of geospatial information through streamlined systems, global defense and intelligence organizations can better exploit and produce geospatial intelligence. In so doing, they can continue to meet mission requirements and get the job done – that is to say, helping to save lives – regardless of the threats to their citizens or their budgets.

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