Letitia Long, Director NGA, at GEOINT 2011
Some items from the GEOINT Symposium held last week (Oct 16-19, 2011) in San Antonio. GEOINT is the annual geospatial intelligence conference. For the last couple of years at least it has featured top intelligence officials and presentations. This year it included Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper (previously head of NGA) as well as Director of NGA Letitia Long and FEMA, DHS, NRO, CENTCOM and others.
Some top-line items from the conference:
–Probably the one attracting the most attention was Clapper’s announcement of budget cuts, as he put it “in the double digits with a B” over ten years. After years of just asking for, and getting, more money and resources (people), this is now apparently at an end. (Current US intel budget is $80B a year). This will particularly hit contractors. See video at 10′:50.”
–Clapper also characterized the WikiLeaks leaker as “an egregious violation of trust” and a “bad egg.” He expressed no understanding of accused leaker Bradley Manning (who he did not name directly) as operating to a higher set of values than blind loyalty (see here for a different take on the leaks as “the most consequential, beneficial and noble acts of this generation”). Clapper said they were putting in more layers of security to monitor people at work. See video at 9′:36.”
–The cloud (cloud computing, thin clients, cloud data storage and sharing, mobile app support, etc.) and cyber, were constant themes mentioned by many. Director of NSA Keith Alexander characterized cyber “as a domain like air, sea, land.” All NSA databases will be in the cloud by December 2011.
—Open source including open source intelligence (OSINT), but also open source software and products. Letitia Long mentioned a more open IT environment at NGA, for example in urban search and rescue (USR) with mobile devices putting out 6,000 pages/hour compared to previous method of print atlases (200 pages/hour).
The best crowdsourcing panel was this one. It focused on humanitarian relief and crisis response and covered NGOs and their relationship to the military. Some need to maintain complete neutrality in order to do what they do, some are more openly involved. Trust was mentioned quite a bit, and that trust is best generated when you yourself get involved in crowdsourcing alongside the citizens (not just taking crowdsourced information for your own use, but participating).
—human geography and socio-cultural analysis (SCA). This was a huge theme as well, with both government (NGA’s twelve “foundational” human geography layers and the contractors emphasizing it. Among the latter are GeoEye’s new AnthroMapper” software which I had a quick demo of. It maps ethnicities, tribes etc. More on this later perhaps.
HG and SCA are seen as “underlying context” to a situation. Where the IC has collected data and imagery of the physical environment (things that can be physically seen and detected) the human geography as they see it is not tangible but is still the critical basis in areas of deployment (military or relief missions). The 12 HG themes are not too surprising:
demographics, economics, communications, religion, education, groups, language, land & water use, ethnicity, medical, transportation and significant events.
Make a database of those and you’ve done human geography & SCA of an area. Interesting omission of course is: politics and political sentiment.
Foundational human geography (HG) themes used by NGA
For example, John Goolgasian (Deputy Lead for online GEOINT at NGA) in an interesting panel session (video here) with Colonel Sharon Hamilton (US Army, now in charge of the human terrain system) provided the slide above, mentioned Tobler’s First Law of geography and cited the State Department’s World Wide Human Geography Data Working Group (WWHGD WG) which will hold a meeting at the USGS 17-18 January, 2012. The goal of this is to “build voluntary partnerships around geospatial datasets for human geography” especially with reference to Sudan and South Sudan but also more generally (Esri UC panel here).
The panel speculated on socio-cultural intelligence as a new facet of intelligence, ie SOCINT. Sharon Hamilton provided a lot of information about the HTS (now over 40 in total, with 31 teams in Afghanistan). It has now been given permanent funding (rather than through Supplementals). She said they use the NGA 12 human geography standards of data to make a baseline dataset (video 1:49’50”), and that 55% of their products are unclassified at the moment.
Hamilton claimed that HTS does not have to “convince” the social science community (of the value of HTS) because they (the Army) fill their HTS classes (video at 1:34’00”). You can take that statement with a pinch of salt, no doubt.
HTS members are “Army civilians” by the way.