Cardillo: A Seismic GEOINT Shift on the Horizon

Published on April 29, 2015

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Director Robert Cardillo recently spoke at the National Space Symposium, where he discussed the “seismic shift” happening in the GEOINT community.

The main driver behind the shift is the rapidly evolving threat environment, which has created an enhanced need to better leverage industry support and exploit open data sources.

“We have both a challenge and a warning,” Cardillo said in this Defense News article. “We have only a limited time to transform our mindset and unleash the power of our people to leverage our enterprise and fulfill the potential that these massive changes offer.”

This vision supports the idea of the democratization of geospatial data. According to Cardillo, today’s technological advances, such as the rise of cost-effective and smaller satellites, social media, and data analytics, are allowing NGA customers to be more nimble and effective in how they manage and leverage spatial information.

In a recent Trajectory Magazine article, Thermopylae’s Harris Eisenberg discussed both the challenges and opportunities for democratizing GEOINT data.

Eisenberg highlighted how data is more valuable when it is used across an organization rather than limited to a few practitioners – calling for breaking the information out of the traditional GIS silos.

In addition, GIS managers and organizational leaders need to think beyond the data management systems and realize the bigger picture when it comes to enhancing decision-making and operational outcomes. This will ultimately make the GIS professional more important to the organization.

Of course, democratized data also resides in unclassified arenas. As Cardillo discussed at the Space Symposium, the GEOINT Pathfinder program aims to leverage unclassified data, commercial information technology and flexible contracts to enhance mission success.

“The GEOINT Pathfinder team will consist of a world-class group of data scientists, application developers, open source researchers, methodologists, and analysts,” Cardillo said. “It will take several months to set up the team. But as soon as they start, they will do 90-day sprints to answer intelligence questions.”

We are certainly on the precipice of the seismic shift that Cardillo discussed. As such, this is a very exciting time for the GEOINT community. Ultimately, the combination of industry and government efforts will bring this vision to life, which will ensure that GEOINT will always be the foundation for national security and beyond.


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