As I mentioned, GEOINT Services is the name of the intelligence community’s solution for how we share geospatial knowledge. The concept is this simple: we will expose our content—and your content if you allow—
We will provide cloud-based scalable, responsive, Open Geospatial Consortium compliant services for common use on Top Secret, Secret, and Unclassified domains. And, we will demand that every piece of intelligence is tied to a place and a time—even if it is not traditional geospatial data. This will be true whether it is data from commercial sources, open sources, or governmental sources.
The biggest impact GEOINT Services will have for our users is that it will speed up the discovery, access to, processing and visualization of geospatial content to support time-critical tactical requirements. You will be able to spend less time hunting and gathering, and more time correlating and analyzing. And you will be able to more easily communicate using simple GIS tools such as Story Maps. In sum, we are making changes to how we develop, acquire and deploy tools that will allow NGA to get solutions to our workforce and our mission partners much faster and more effectively.
Our Fiscal Year 2016 plan included building geospatial content management tools into our unclassified and ICITE service offerings. This assists our mission partners as they migrate and manage their own geospatial data in the Cloud. And it provides reliability and consistency throughout the Intelligence Community. In addition to the platform, we’ll provide central registry and cataloging services that will help users find and get data. As we grow the quality and quantity of services, users throughout the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community can better support the kind of analysis that will dominate our future.
Let me make this real. One of the NGA’s initiatives is Structured Observation Management, or, harvesting the information contained in images, in an organized manner, for myriad uses. Every feature, from every image, available independent of the frame. Think of the possibilities. But none of these possibilities become real if there are not services to support finding, getting, sharing, and using these data.
I’ve talked a lot about how GEOINT Services will enable the mission, and the common services we’re providing. We’re also doing a lot behind the scenes. Just to give you one example, we’re changing the way we develop and acquire tools and capabilities needed by warfighters, first responders, and our other mission users. NGA is switching to a Dev/Ops methodology that allows developers and solution providers to get needed capabilities deployed to mission users much more rapidly. With this methodology, we’re embracing collaboration during the solution development process, and we’re establishing a developer environment that supports automated delivery of software and code into the NGA cloud. Traditionally, it takes the government years—seriously, YEARS—to request, build and roll out a new IT system or tool. We’re reducing that timeline significantly, so that we can push out capabilities to users in weeks, days, or even hours. This includes using open source tools such as RedMine, GitLab, Jenkins, and Nexus within our continuous delivery/continuous integration pipeline. We’ll be employing this process on all networks, beginning our development in the Unclassified Domain, adopting a policy of “build low, push high.”
We have capabilities already available for geospatial analysts to leverage, including our base visualization and data services, where analysts can discover trusted GEOINT. (Trust us, we’re from the Government!) For example, NGA's Map of the World initiative has delivered our foundation GEOINT layers as services to support easy access and visualization on five secure domains. This enables NGA users as diverse as Army infantrymen and international partners to access our content on the networks where they work.
We also use Esri's ArcGIS Portal as the IC GIS Portal, providing a platform for analytic collaboration and data sharing for IC geospatial users. Our adoption of portal and web GIS promotes the sharing of geospatial data sets, tools and services in one location—about time, you say! As of yesterday, we have had more than 19,000 unique users log into IC GIS Portal, which is more than double the number of users we had just last October. These users include the traditional IC agencies, but also our partners in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Combatant Commands. And, nearly 50% of these users have been active in Portal in the last 30 days.
Not only do these advantages allow users around the world to collaborate in support of a variety of missions. But all of you can relate to misplacing the “S.H.X” and the “P.R.J.” files when sharing data with your colleagues or even moving them in your own computer. By using the Portal, our users don’t have to worry and instead get to elevate their focus to the tasks at hand.
On Monday, Esri and USGIF hosted an App Challenge with NGA’s GEOINT Services. Seven apps were developed by six teams in a short eight-hour workday, with teams from NGA, EUCOM, DTRA, Naval Surface Warfare Office, and the Naval Oceanographic Office participating. And, they were all analysts. Not developers.
One of the apps, developed by NGA analysts, is a business intelligence application for maritime chart production and updates. Using the tools within IC GIS Portal, the team built a dashboard that integrated business analytics, mapping, and near real-time updates. Our agency leadership is already looking at how to use this capability to support decision-making on resource prioritization. Another app allows users to perform anticipatory analysis of violence and unrest by analyzing historical data and sharing this as an interactive product using a Portal Web App. But, we are not just about awesome apps.
We are also providing a modern, user-friendly, streamlined web presence on all domains, including the worldwide web. You won’t have to piece together the story. You’ll have it all in one place. But enough talk about what we’ve done, and what we plan to do. It’s time to demonstrate.
We’re going to show you an example of how some of the initiatives and tools we’ve discussed can be applied to one upcoming mission: Security at the 2016 Rio Olympics. It’s a lot of work to prepare for any Olympics. And, NGA plays a support role to the Department of Homeland Security and other mission partners to make events like the Olympics safe. It’s a great example of how we apply GEOINT to real world issues.
I want to add that we’re also actively pursuing mobile apps for this kind of data. For example, our Disconnected Interactive Content Explorer, which we refer to as DICE, is an app that allows users to load interactive content to a mobile device so the device can display interactive content without a network connection. And there’s ASAM, our Anti-Shipping Activity Messages app, which includes the locations and descriptive accounts of specific hostile acts against ships and mariners. Both are available for Apple and Android users. Check them out … no, not now!
But, we want our customers to be able to pull out their smart phones and tablets on the go, and get the same type of enriched analysis they can get sitting at their desks. The reality of working in intelligence and combat support is that pursuing new data and achieving new capability requires balance. A balance between speed and accuracy. A balance between crowd-sourced and pedigreed data. A balance between national security needs and civil liberties. A balance between openness and protection. There are solutions to be had, but they are elusive.
Here’s what I’ll tell you: I believe we – all of us in this room – have arrived at a moment. We need to develop a strong partnership – with industry, with academia, with other federal agencies – with you. In order to meet our National Security needs, we have to innovate – and fast. The current set of commercial tools won’t suffice to meet our future national security challenges.
I’ve spent most of our time this morning talking about what we’ve accomplished so far, and what we’ll accomplish in the future. Let me close by telling you what is still in the offing.
We need solutions that will:
Enable our analysts to have simple, easy access to big data—and to not just look through massive amounts of data to find single answers, but to use the bigness of data to uncover patterns that are not obvious without looking at the whole;
Equip our analysts to make sense of all that data—and do so when the data are not geographically contiguous or temporally synchronous;
Provide more and streamlined capabilities—and to do so when users are disadvantaged--limited by low bandwidth or network access challenges;
Move further toward anticipatory, instead of responsive, analysis—and to do so when there is no known starting point for understanding the pattern you’re seeing;
Establish on-the-fly analytic services and tools—and make them so flexible that they adapt to the trial and error that is required to answer complex questions; and
Develop better modeling capabilities – or, to put it another way, to provide better tools to capture knowledge in a useful, repeatable manner.
I will add one more challenge—and it’s one that all of us in government face, whether local, state, or federal: Data assurance – for want of a better term. We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to content today. Whether social media, commercial imagery, or Voluntary Geographic Information, there is so much available to us that was not produced for us. And it can help. But when we, the government, provide it, there is an expectation that it is somehow, validated.
How are we going to do that? What can we do that assigns some probability of correctness to data that is available, but not ours? Tick tock, team. We’ve got to get on this one. I couldn’t agree more with what Edwin Land—an icon in MY business—once said: “Don’t take on a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.”
We have come a great distance, but there is distance still to travel to deliver on the promise of GEOINT to attack the challenges—opportunities—of the day. But we’ve made a bit of magic—together—over the course of the year and I know there is more to be had.
When we match government’s purpose, resources, and years of tradecraft to industry’s energy and innovation, good things happen. And if you are wondering why you care—why you care whether we move to the cloud, whether we deliver a portal, whether we embrace GEOINT services—it is because of this truth: When we address OUR vexing, complex, nearly impossible challenges, we force the development of capability that addresses yours. And THAT, is a good day.
Thank you so much for having me.
Jack, would you like to join me?