NGA shifts focus to high-tech world

An apps store for the intelligence community and more participation in crisis response are in the cards for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, according to its new director, Letitia Long, as the agency works to

The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency’s new director is pushing the use of high-tech tools to improve the analysis and usability of intelligence information.

Among the changes to come will be an apps store featuring mobile apps created by both NGA and outside users – with the potential for an app store for the intelligence community that could be similar to that being pursued by the Defense Department and already in use by the commercial sector.

“We want to put the power of geospatial intelligence into the hands of our users,” said Letitia Long, who spoke Nov. 2 and the GeoInt 2010 conference in New Orleans. “We want to fundamentally change the user experience.”

“Commercial companies have changed the way we interact with each other online and with mobile devices, tablets and a plethora of apps – many with location-based services, she” Long said. “We have to take the complex geo-processing capabilities of a [geographic information system] and deliver to the user intuitive – but powerful – apps that perform the tasks that are needed.”

Acknowledging hurdles in access security and the varying classifications associated with DOD information, Long said she hopes NGA will have a hand in getting maps, geospatial intelligence and sensor data to troops on the ground.

“We have our people forward-embedded in Afghanistan with our mission partners,” and that’s helping NGA better understand the needs of military deployed in the theater, she added.

Long also said that NGA is working with the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, and that in the future, geospatial intelligence could be used to help identify notoriously tough-to-track malicious actors of cyberspace. “We can take that on as a challenge,” she told reporters after her keynote speech.

Other offerings under construction at NGA include new custom products and tools built from high-tech imagery, enhanced geospatial reporting and broader, deeper analysis, she said.

Those capabilities could help determine solutions to some of the nation’s biggest potential threats, including potential locations of mass-migration, extremist ideology, pandemic outbreaks and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Long said.

“Often, the human mind cannot absorb vast amounts of data through the written word alone. NGA thinks spatially and can depict that visually. This is a unique, core competency that we bring to the national security mission,” she said. “The integration and analysis of all of the data that we can obtain about a place can yield new insight into age-old questions.”

According to Long, the execution of her vision will further spur the use of NGA in crisis response, like its participation in responding to the Haiti earthquake, and in analyzing global threats.

“No one will go to war without us, no one will manage a humanitarian crisis without us, no one will respond to a natural disaster without us,” Long said. “We provide the common operating picture.”



 

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