The U.S. government’s geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) should leverage more commercial capabilities to allow it to move quicker, keep ahead of competitors, and unify efforts, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) says in a new strategy document.
The National System for Geospatial Intelligence (NSG) Enterprise Commercial GEOINT Strategy 2021-2025 contains four pillars to drive efforts, including unity of effort, diversifying sources and leveraging partners to build capacity, improve data security, and help grow commercial capabilities. The strategy is the first for commercial GEOINT.
“To continue to maintain and grow our competitive advantage, we must team with commercial GEOINT providers—the world leaders in a number of arenas, including the remote sensing arena,” Vice Adm. Robert Sharp, director of the NGA and the GEOINT Functional Manager, said in a statement last Thursday. “We must build on our existing strong partnerships with other government agencies, academia, combatant commands, and allies and make this investment together. No single agency or organization can or should be the sole investor in commercial capabilities.”
The intelligence community is increasingly taking advantage of satellite and data analytics capabilities that the burgeoning commercial sector is bringing to market for a wide range of government, industrial and other uses.
Each pillar of the four-page strategy includes a goal and a related subset of initiatives. For unity of effort, “The goal is to cooperate to increase transparency, commonality, and coordinated purpose” and includes initiatives such as creating a culture of “commercial as a primary source,” applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to commercial data, prioritizing unclassified mission needs, and strengthening the role of commercial sources for classified requirements.
For the second pillar, which is expanding sources and partnership capacity, that strategy wants members of the National System for Geospatial Intelligence to have redundant sources in case their usual source is unavailable and increase capacity at the enterprise level.
Some initiatives under the second pillar include stronger domestic and international partnerships to diversify and expand capacity, match verified suppliers with buyers and buyers with other buyers, and adapt processes and systems to ensure commercial capabilities can be best utilized.
The strategy also calls for boosting the security and trust in commercial GEOINT to more quickly take advantage of new capabilities. Initiatives here include stronger security where data is taken in, implementing zero-trust, strengthening supply chain security, and isolating risks from sources that are less secure but still important.
To bolster commercial capabilities and continue to make better use of industry solutions, the strategy calls for incentivizing commercial providers and more quickly evaluating emerging commercial capabilities. It says the intelligence community’s and Defense Departments needs should be highlighted to encourage industry innovation, calls for investments in commercial capabilities, and “share data and experiences to create trusted referrals for commercial data sources.”
“New sources breed new methods,” Sharp says in his introduction to the strategy. “New methods breed new doctrine and policy. The way forward must include shareable intelligence produced at a pace that wins both the physical battle and the communications battle for hearts and minds. Commercial GEOINT is a critical element of our national strategy, and the NSG will be the primary driver for national security uses.”