'Imagery Way Ahead' becomes poster technology for new intel architecture

Director of national intelligence John Negroponte has been working with his Pentagon counterparts to shape the Imagery Way Ahead as the spearhead for an emerging Intelligence Collection Architecture that will weave together various collection capabilities.

During a speech at the GEOINT 2006 conference in Orlando last week, Negroponte described how he plans to develop an overarching architecture for the various intelligence collection technologies in the federal spy domain.

Imagery Way Ahead is designed to develop a suite of capabilities that is, among other things, comprehensive, survivable, persistent, timely, adaptable, innovative, credible and integrated, Negroponte said.

The intelligence community chief went on to describe how the principles developed in the Imagery Way Ahead project would be progressively extended to other intelligence collection methods.

Negroponte said the architecture project would be extended in its first year to seven separate projects, each covering a separate collection technology: clandestine technical collection, geospatial intelligence, mission communications, signals intelligence, special communications and data management, as well as the abstruse and interdisciplinary field of measurement and signature intelligence.

The project's second year would broaden the analysis to human intelligence and open-source intelligence, Negroponte said.

The intelligence chief cited several issues that emerged as the intelligence community reviewed the coordination of these information collection methods:

'We had more intelligence collection programs than resources to support them,' he told the gathering of geospatial technology specialists.

'We had an uneven ability to assess the relative value of capabilities and programs within each discipline and extremely limited ability to assess them across disciplines. And we couldn't use mission priorities and requirements to inform resource allocations to the maximum effect,' Negroponte said.

He cited a recommendation by the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission that the DNI should 'create a new management structure within his office that manages collection as an 'integrated collection enterprise.''

Negroponte's remarks on the progress of the intelligence collection architecture and its imagery component mesh with similar explanations of the spy world's IT architecture by CIO Dale Meyerrose.

Ray Bjorklund, vice president, Market Intelligence and chief knowledge officer commented that 'Unlike the previous intelligence community structure built around the director of central intelligence who also led the CIA, the director of national intelligence has more statutory clout and more ability in terms of numbers of people to orchestrate architectural planning for the intelligence community.'

'This will affect intelligence technology the intelligence community recognizes, as does its customers, that there is an extraordinary wealth of information that has been made available to field commanders from overhead sensors [that can gather imagery],' Bjorklund added. 'The ultimate users, the field commanders, are realizing there is great merit in using that information, but it is not always presented in [a] consistent way.'

Bjorklund said that a new intelligence information architecture could promote sharing of useful data by adopting standards, such as Extensible Markup Llanguage, that would mesh with the military's Net Centric Warfare capabilities. However, the new standards should not be so restrictive as to exclude useful data from legacy systems, Bjorklund said.

On the other hand, an intelligence system that gathers information of extraordinary value would be of very limited usefulness if it is so 'proprietary,' in the sense of not being standardized, that it could not share its data across the intelligence community, Bjorklund said.

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