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US Hydro 2015 Conference

 March 17, 2015

Public Release Number: 15-196

Remarks as Prepared for Robert Cardillo, Director,
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Good morning! I’m happy to join with you, the members of the Hydrographic Society of America here at the US Hydro 2015 Conference.

The forum is often cited as the chief source of information on how agencies can find, access and use CI, as well as an opportunity to hear the latest in sensor capabilities and applications, emerging technologies, CI policy and user success stories.

It is a privilege to be one of the organizing partners with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA – and the U.S. Navy Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command. I also am proud to note that one of NGA’s own, Chris Andreasen, former NGA Hydrographer, will be inducted into the Hydrography Hall of Fame later today. Chris, congratulations and thank you for your decades of service to NGA and our predecessors, to the hydrography community, and to the nation!

This annual event and this large turnout speaks volumes about the critical nature of what you do. For generations, the hydrographic community has played a key role to ensure safe global navigation, promote positive international relations, protect the environment, and above all, protect national security.

As Director of NGA, I pledge to sustain our status as a premier hydrographic office and support our efforts to enhance our safety of navigation missions.

Before I introduce our keynote speaker, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, let me take a brief moment to discuss NGA, what we do, and why it is important to you.
The world has been growing markedly less stable. We face more and more diverse crises than at any time during the past 50 years.

Almost every major crisis in international relations involves the hydrography community and what we do. Consider traditional geopolitical matters such as the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. It clearly concerns access to and control of the Black Sea.

Iran has shown every intention of being able to control access to the Persian Gulf. Of course, 40 percent of the world’s oil supply sails through the Straits of Hormuz every year. And the world economy would be severely damaged if conflict blocked those straits.

The statements – and actions – of religious extremists in Yemen and Egypt show they understand the vital importance of the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Suez Canal.

The disagreements over sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea involve vital ocean lines of communication as well as control over vast natural resources. And one area with which NGA is seriously concerned is climate change and its impact on the Arctic. NGA has aligned our long-time interests in the Arctic region with 2013 Department of Defense Arctic Strategy.

We support a wide variety of Arctic Strategy missions, especially to: preserve freedom of the seas, improve domain awareness, support allies and civil authorities, support human and environmental safety, and help to develop the Arctic Council.

Equally important, NGA is an essential enabler of the scientific study of the region and supports a wide range of Polar Regions-related research.

NGA is also known for its massive efforts to support ocean-based disaster recovery efforts, especially remapping damaged areas. From Hurricane Katrina and Operation Deep Water Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico to the Indian Ocean Tsunami, NGA has contributed millions of dollars and tens of thousands of manhours to make – and keep – the world’s maritime charts as accurate as possible.

And we have partnered with many of you in the room today and your fine organizations to ensure that the seas remain open and safe for every vessel that transits U.S. waters.

I could continue to list crisis after crisis, but the one constant is that the United States hydrographic community remains a world leader in addressing these complex problems. As your partner, NGA is the nation’s leading provider of geospatial intelligence related to hydrography. We hold the privileged responsibility of providing dynamic, persistent, accurate intelligence that guides our maritime customers’ decisions and actions.

Anyone who sails a US ship, flies a US aircraft, goes into harm’s way on the ocean, responds to maritime disasters, or even navigates a vessel or uses a cellphone with GPS relies on NGA. We do not make the GPS system, but we do help make sure it is accurate.

So, I cannot overstate the importance of hydrography to the nation and to NGA’s maritime safety and naval mission. Hydrographic offices throughout the world support safety of navigation, maritime security, and environmental protection. They improve the accuracy of hydrographic information on a global basis.

Technological developments have led to greater accuracy in hydrographic surveys, faster compilation of digital nautical charts and documents, as well as improved coverage to foster today’s maritime commerce.

NGA seeks to automate our processes and be “machine to machine” so we can provide more accurate charts and improve coverage. Our work in hydrography has created another vital opportunity for NGA. It helps us to lead the Intelligence Community in being transparent and open about what we do.

We are making our content and applications more openly available and more transparent. One very pertinent example is our new safety of navigation app available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play. Called the Anti-Shipping Activity Message, or ASAM, interactive database, the mobile app includes the geographic location and reported accounts of hostile acts – piracy, robbery, hijacking and kidnapping – against ships and their crews and passengers.

Now, every sailor, whether a captain of an oil tanker or the owner of a private yacht, can know where pirates are active and whether they could be sailing into dangerous waters. The app has been downloaded hundreds of times of the iTunes App Store and on Google Play.

But one app is the least of NGA’s growing contribution to hydrography. Our seamless, dynamic Map of the World enables customers to visualize and access integrated content fixed to accurate and authoritative geographic features on the earth. Through the map, our customers can see a unified, online, geospatial, temporal and relational view of the world.

And since 70 percent of the world’s surface is water, it is obvious that the integration of our foundation GEOINT with our navigation datasets, feature data, imagery, and intelligence can play a huge role in maritime and naval safety and security.

The Map of the World serves as the basis for the IC’s object-based production environment and as the geospatial bedrock of all intelligence, information and knowledge. We can integrate many different types of intelligence because we offer a common frame of reference that brings together multiple sources of information about one object.

Customers can access the map through multiple security domains, on multiple devices, and they can customize it as needed. Today, it is available on all three domains.

An important aspect of this map is that it displays not only NGA-generated data, but also data generated by our partners, and the origin of all data is easily accessible. It has been developed by a partnership between NGA and numerous industry partners. Furthermore, some 80 percent of our foundation data, including our maritime data, is provided by commercial sources. Simply, we desire to partner with industry – not compete.

Industry is indispensable to everything we do in our hydrographic work. We draw on technologies and methodologies from other agencies, our military partners, our allies, industry, and academia. We want to benefit from industry’s creativity. And if you think we’re headed into a space that industry can better fill, tell us.

Before I conclude and introduce our keynote speaker, I want to mention a couple of Information Technology – IT – projects underway.

They will migrate us to a future enterprise architecture that fully supports the S-100 line of products, especially all current Maritime product lines from a single feature database. In addition, this same database will house the data for other Domains, including Aeronautical and Topographic, to build their products and be the base feature layer of the Map of the World. An Initial Operating Capability for both is planned for later this year.

This architecture will unify all of our hydrographic and maritime data and save our customers hours and days of time searching for data and building charts. Rather than searching multiple databases, they will be able to go to the Map of the World. And through a series of simple menus and clicks, they will be able to access all of our content and analysis.

In conclusion, NGA remains committed to be a vital partner to the national and global hydrographic community.

It’s now my pleasure to introduce the Honorable Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator from Rhode Island, the Ocean State.

Senator Whitehouse is a graduate of Yale University. But those of us who live in this area can also claim him since he received his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law.

After many years of public service, in 2006 he was elected to the US Senate where he now is in his second term. Coming from the “Ocean State,” Senator Whitehouse is a great advocate of understanding and protecting our oceans. He knows that the health of our economy and the security of our way of life depend on the health of our maritime environment.

In fact, he founded the Senate Oceans Caucus to promote creative, bipartisan policy solutions to protect our oceans, our coasts, and the people and economies that rely on them.

As a forceful voice for action on the challenges of climate change and its impact on the seas, he also joined with Representative Henry Waxman to form a bicameral Task Force on Climate Change to tackle this essential issue. And by the way, Senator Whitehouse receives constant encouragement for his support at his home in Newport. His wife, Sandra is a marine biologist and environmental advocate!

So without further ado, it is my honor and privilege to introduce Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.