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Meeting GEOINT challenges with commercial capability

By: tsmith
In November 2010, I sat in the New Orleans Convention Center on the final day of the GEOINT 2010 Symposium listening to General James Cartwright’s keynote address. He pointed out the continued need to support our folks who have been in harm’s way for almost a decade, and then noted a major obstacle to this support—the economy. Cartwright stated that our country is at an “unprecedented level of debt” and we are “dangerously close to not having the resource for the need.” It caused me pause to have the direct link between national security and a bad economy elevated to that level of dire importance. Here we are 14 months later, celebrating the dawn of a new year, with no clear economic lights at the end of the tunnel and General Cartwright’s prediction coming to fruition. After years of the private sector being burdened with recession, the federal sector is about to feel the wave of the new economic realities. In 2012, budgets will be slashed and jobs will be eliminated. Meanwhile, the challenges we are trying to solve within the GEOINT community are only getting more difficult. The new reality of doing a whole lot more, with a whole lot less, is forcing change. Spurred by these new challenges, The Center for Strategic Space Studies has published a great, freely downloadable resource: “The Future of Commercial GEOINT Services: A Look at Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going.” This is a great read which discusses how NGA can transition from the industrial, linear, stovepiped model of the past to the fluid, data rich, user-focused era by leveraging commercial capability. Obviously, this is something we at AGI wholeheartedly applaud. This report emphasizes the imperative need for NGA to effectively transition from a “data and information-scarce environment” to a content rich “Data Bazaar” environment. Multi -discipline data sources are growing every day and users are demanding not just access, but also to have it processed, fused, tagged and qualified for use. Web-based services such as Flickr, Twitter, OpenStreetMap, Photosynth, etc. are changing the GEOINT landscape, and industry must learn how to integrate this data into the collection process. AGI's standards-based COTS software supports such interoperability. QMADI (Query-Mine-Assemble-Disseminate-Integrate) is also discussed in the report. QMADI is the next evolution of the TCPED (Tasking, Collection, Processing, Exploitation and Dissemination) paradigm. The authors outline how T & C remains important (again, a great fit for AGI), but how all this new multi-source data is overwhelming the current PED process. QMADI is a more fluid, user-centered, timely way to handle this new environment. After defining this new paradigm of big data, the report articulates how we can get there: focusing on the user, living out on open networks and mandating standards and well-defined, open APIs. Specific acquisition and policy ideas are also addressed. From a COTS software perspective, these ideas are refreshing to hear. It has been frustrating over the years to watch needs go unmet by inefficiency and bureaucracy. Throughout our 22-year history, AGI has been a staunch advocate of leveraging COTS software to help support the mission. As a global company we have seen how even financially distressed organizations can leapfrog 5 to 10 years into the future by leveraging interoperable, standards-based COTS capability. Conversely, we have observed how maintenance tails on stovepiped, custom developed technology can paralyze huge organizations for decades. We applaud this new report and are eager to contribute our technology and our expertise to advancing the GEOINT mission.
Posted: 1/6/2012 2:50:00 PM