Remarks as Prepared for
Director, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Intelligence and National Security Alliance, Leadership Dinner
Jan. 21, 2015
Thank you, Tony, for that warm introduction. And thanks to INSA President Ambassador Joe DeTrani for his invitation to speak tonight to this august group. And, I would like to recognize Ambassador John Negroponte, chairman of INSA and the first director of national intelligence. This IC and this nation owe a debt of thanks to these two gentlemen for their selfless contribution to our security. Please join me in thanking them both.
And, I would be remiss if I failed to recognize the other great leaders joining my wife Lori and me – Robert Joseph, INSA senior national security advisor, and especially, Charlie Allen, who needs no introduction.
Charlie, thank you for keeping us on our toes and pushing the entire community to move forward faster into the future. I myself have my own technique when faced with a risky, dicey decision – what would Charlie do? And then I shudder at that thought … and press ahead. Please know that your sense of purpose and urgency continues to reverberate throughout the IC as we seek to emulate the high standard you set.
This is my first time to speak to INSA as director of NGA. I must admit it is daunting to look out and see so many pioneers and leaders in our community. But, I know I am among friends and colleagues who support NGA and our noble work. Thus, it is an honor and a privilege to be here with our national security, intelligence community and industry partners – truly one team united to secure our freedoms.
Before I get to the heart of my remarks, allow me to introduce my new right hand –NGA’s new deputy director, Sue Gordon. Sue joins us after 25 years in a variety of leadership positions at the CIA. Born in the Analytic directorate, Sue has excelled in leadership positions throughout Langley. She is well known to many of you here as the “godmother” of In-Q-Tel. Of course, it has been a huge success and a primary source of critical technologies for the community since its inception. In addition to backing me up, she will lead our industry innovation and advocacy efforts. I know Sue has already begun her efforts to reach out to you and is eager to get know as many of you as she can. Thank you, Sue, for taking on this essential role for NGA.
Now let me take a few moments to share my views with you on three topics:
- NGA’s way forward,
- Our evolving role in the intelligence community, and
- Along the way, how aspects of my career have influenced this direction.
Although he is not here tonight, a word about of one of my bosses, Director Clapper. I have had the honor and privilege to work for DNI Clapper for over 20 years – DIA/DR, NIMA/NGA Director, USD/I and now DNI. My last job afforded me the opportunity to learn at the feet of the master seven days a week – for four years. And he led with a singular proposition – that integration delivers the best results for our customers. I have never met anyone with more integrity, greater love for his country, more dedication to its security, and more determination to do the right thing. His laser-like focus on intelligence integration while we face the most challenging threat environment in 50 years will pay dividends in greater national security for generations to come. We, and this country, are lucky to have him. Let’s acknowledge his service.
My message to Team NGA is a simple proposition – and a complicated execution. That proposition is that NGA exists for one reason: to enable mission consequence for those we serve. We exist to enable our customers’ success – nothing else will suffice. So my key issue is to accelerate the pace of progress because the evolving threat environment and rapid technological advances demand it.
The recent attacks on freedom of expression by terrorists in France and by the North Korean hacking of Sony are a clarion call to all of us. It is a call to remember why we fight terrorism and tyranny around the world – to protect not only our own, but the fundamental freedoms of people everywhere.
And, I believe that we at NGA and you, the leaders of the defense, intelligence, industry and academic communities here tonight – what I collectively call Team NGA – have a profound opportunity. That opportunity is to look at GEOINT through a new lens – the lens of consequence. This lens has four parts that I call the 4Cs. That is, we must convey our exquisite content within meaningful context to our customers so they achieve the consequence they need.
By consequence, I mean the customer’s insights, understanding and foreknowledge that enable them to obtain their desired outcomes – when they need it. For a warfighter, that might mean the ability to safely navigate or the precise location of a high-value target; for a policy maker, an ability to anticipate an adversary’s next move; for the first responder, the knowledge to find survivors trapped after a natural disaster. And all of it must be delivered at their point of decision to make the critical difference.
Many of you have heard my rather painful anecdote in which I had failed our nation’s highest ranking military officer within my first few days as his J-2. To cut to the chase, ADM Mullen told me I had let him down: And then provided this simple, yet profound wisdom for an intelligence professional:
“Too late – too bad
“Too long – too bad
“Too complicated – too bad.”
So we must make the geospatial intelligence community the leader in timely, clear and concise insights from which our customers get the desired consequences.
NGA is positioned to lead the IC to integrate, collaborate, innovate and visualize content and context to enable timely, successful decisions and actions. I began to see through this lens as a young analyst when I learned that it is not the picture, but the meaning behind the picture that matters to the customer. Throughout my career, I have learned that content not conveyed clearly within context so that the customer understands its meaning is of no consequence.
With our new focus on consequence and NGA’s great legacy of public service, I have been encouraging NGA to become even more transparent. With more transparency, NGA is uniquely positioned to play a leading role to advance public confidence in the intelligence community. The community understands that the challenges of the past three years may have reduced public confidence in the value of our work and our dedication to protect the public’s privacy. What makes NGA’s position unique is what I call the “democratization” of geospatial information.
Two factors are driving this “democratization”: the rapidly spreading geography of the Internet and the “darkening of the skies” by small sats and new airborne collectors.
First, the rapidly spreading geography of the Internet – as more people carry more handheld devices to more places – and the emerging Internet of Things demonstrate what you and I have long known: Everything, everyplace, everyone exists in a time and a place.
Their dependence on their georeference makes what we do – spatio-temporal analysis – the bridge to the future of commerce, cooperation, transparency and security. We look at questions from a broad geographic point of view. We use geospatial data to analyze questions with scientific methods that give unique perspectives grounded in reality.
Second, the skies – really space – will darken with hundreds of small sats to be launched by Skybox, Planet Labs, BlackSky and others. The questions that arise from the persistence of geospatial data streaming from hundreds of satellites covering the earth multiple times a day are staggering. The challenges of taking advantage of that data are daunting. We cannot afford – nor need – to store it all, so will we have to go to an “imagery as a service” model and buy only what we need when we need it? This will be less about the images and more about the derived information or analytics.
And these are only the beginning of the questions we must answer – or even know to ask – about the impact of the small sat revolution. What questions can we answer with daily coverage of the planet? What choices will our adversaries make with daily coverage of the planet? How will we maintain decision advantage in such a playing field?
We are already recognized for our positive contributions to national and international humanitarian assistance and disaster recovery – HADR. We are the most open and transparent intelligence agency involved in HADR, safety of navigation and public science and research.
And we are natural integrators. Every modern local, regional and global challenge – climate change, future energy landscape, and many more – has geography at its heart.
And NGA is the best agency to integrate all of this geospatial content and putting it into exquisite context to drive consequences for our customers.
I suspect many of you would like to know what I’d like to acquire from industry – and the most straightforward answer is “I don’t know.” That said, I do know what I must provide to those that depend upon Team NGA – and that is coherence. Coherence to remove noise from signal. Coherence to provide confidence in your geo-locational dominance. Coherence to raise confidence and offer insight into an enigmatic issue.
Consider Team NGA’s response to the Ebola crisis. We are the first intelligence agency to create a World Wide Web site with access to our relevant unclassified content. It is open to everyone – no passwords, no closed groups. Since October 23, when we launched our site, we have posted one quarter of all of our available content to the Web. In fact, 99 percent of our Ebola-related content is unclassified. We cannot distribute most of it because of agreements we have with commercial providers and foreign partners. We are working with them to review those agreements.
Consider these numbers: Since October 23, the number of layers of feature data online has grown from 12 to 358. 135 more layers are in the final stage before posting. One hundred percent of our elevation data is available. We have publically posted 224 NGA products. Foreign partners have joined us as well. The United Kingdom has posted maps of Sierra Leone and the United Nations large-scale maps of Liberia.
And, we are working daily to make even more of our own and our partners’ content public. Our transparency is striking a major chord with NGOs, international health organizations, and other countries as we approach one million clicks on our web site.
I also am very proud that NGA has on the ground an analyst who deserves special mention. He is embedded with the 101st Airborne in Monrovia to help upgrade the country’s essential, but out-of-date maps. Using commercial imagery, he also works directly with Liberian analysts who work for their equivalent of NGA – the Liberian Institute of Statistics-Geo-Information Services, or LISGIS.
After proudly providing you with additional content and contest that we’ve been able to convey at unprecedented levels on the World Wide Web, I will now apply my own challenge as to consequence. All of our work in Liberia has resulted in increased confidence in the placement of Ebola Treatment Units to save time between symptom and diagnosis – that time save lives of those with the disease and kept many others from becoming infected. That’s the short-term consequence. And, we’ve provided new geospatial skill sets to the Liberians so that they can deliver their own content in context for their customrs – in other words, we’ve not just given them fish …
In addition, we are the first in the community to crowdsource applications development. Through the GitHub open sourcing and crowdsourcing platform, we have invited the public to help us improve our disaster response applications on 16 different topics. In fact, we just joined with DigitalGlobe to release on GitHub our 16th app called MrGEO – MapReduce GEO. It is a toolkit that leverages the power of cloud-based architecture to solve geospatial problems. For example, first responders can use MrGEO to plan the best ways in and out of dangerous areas by taking into account terrain, land use and weather.
We also are the first IC agency to publish a FREE safety of navigation app on iTunes and Google Play. We released the Anti-Shipping Activity Message, or ASAM, interactive database on iTunes and Google Play about a month ago. The ASAM mobile app includes the geographic location and reported accounts of hostile acts – piracy, robbery, hijacking and kidnapping – against maritime ships, crews and passengers. Now, every sailor – whether a captain of a ship or sailor on a private yacht – can know where pirates are active and whether they could be sailing into dangerous waters.
In short, our successful, open disaster response partnerships with international, federal, state and local first responders have led to ground-breaking initiatives in transparency and open sourcing. That is the critical point about NGA and our public leadership role. We do all this and much more not just to protect the nation, but to directly support the well-being of the lives of people around the world and to help give birth to revolutionary technologies. NGA can and will take its place on the global stage as we engage with the public – both at home and abroad – more often to:
- Share our stories,
- Offer more access to our content and our apps, and
- Perhaps most important, address their concerns about our mission and our responsibility to protect their privacy.
I see many more opportunities for greater collaboration between the private sector and the entire GEOINT community that can increase our impact for the public as well as our defense and intelligence missions. Among these opportunities are:
- Take advantage of disruptive technologies, especially the “Darkening Skies” revolution; this could be seen a threatening – or liberating. I choose the latter.
- Create coherence from the noise that could result from the commoditization of our business.
- Advance security with identity and access management.
- Integrate new sources, especially social media, so we can provide more anticipatory intelligence, and
- Propel GEOINT as a force for democracy.
Let me also address a concern I know industry has – our acquisition process. NGA has begun to take a number of steps to make our acquisition processes more agile and more efficient. [BTW, did I mention Sue Gordon?]
We have launched the Geospatial Solutions Marketplace – GSM. In the GSM, companies can propose solutions and capabilities in a secure environment and get quick feedback from potential NGA customers. To date, 83 companies and 128 individual users have registered. We have received 21 submissions for solutions to problems, such as collecting open source intelligence and automating high-speed search for video and imagery.
Finally, in March, we will advance the power of GSM as a result of our collaboration with USGIF when it stands up the Industry Solutions Marketplace – ISM. ISM will provide a collaborative environment to refine and demonstrate capabilities based on NGA’s needs made known through the GSM.
In closing, I want you to remember these three points from tonight:
- We want to cooperate with the private sector, not compete. You are members of Team NGA, and we can only succeed together.
- NGA is taking a more active role to sustain the public’s confidence in our Community’s integrity and dedication to their privacy and security – we must get much better at supporting crises such as Ebola, and
- Last, but not least, with your help, we will accelerate the pace of change to realize our vision with an intense focus on customer consequence.
In short, we will focus on our sole purpose: To convey clear, concise, timely, insightful content and context to our customers so they maximize their consequences.
I think it is now time for us to enjoy our meals, and I will come back up later to have a conversation with my friend Gina Genton and you.
Cleared for public release: 15-196