The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is juggling several different directions as it plans for the next five years. But, rather than face having to choose which direction to pursue, the agency has mapped a course in which all of the different paths aim for a common destination.
Geospatial Information Systems
Handheld mobile devices will be the next delivery vehicles for geospatial intelligence if the agency responsible for processing and delivering the vital information has its way. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency already has developed apps for a variety of different mobile platforms, and it is working with the commercial sector to expand the menu it is about to offer to individual users in the field.
In the battle to share information effectively among local, state and federal partners, the National Guard Bureau has employed a tool designed to give personnel an edge. This geospatial information technology is deployed across the United States and its territories, enabling better coordination during emergency situations. With Google Earth as its base, it already has proved valuable in large-scale responses, and officials are planning future improvements.
The U.S. Army is pushing to provide manageable amounts of three-dimensional terrain visualization imagery from its GeoGlobe database down to the individual soldier. The imagery soon will become available in PDF format so that it can be viewed on handheld devices to improve situational awareness, mission planning and decision making.
As satellite data volume swells and virtual environments appear on more desktops, knowledgeable commanders are making split-second decisions by relying on their experience. Soon they will have the support of smart systems replete with subject matter expert material that describes choices and their consequences.
The National Imagery and Mapping Agency is fielding a team of commercial companies to provide vital geospatial information services to military and civilian government customers. The goal is not only to rapidly obtain various products ranging from basic mapping to detailed geospatial imagery, but also to establish an extensive commercial base of geospatial information services and generate two-way technology transfer.
Continuously evolving visualization software now allows a host of commercial and military customers to tour a location in four dimensions without leaving the comfort of their desktop. Database and real-time imagery combined with user-friendly, dramatic formats enhance applications ranging from farmers assessing crops to the intelligence community viewing potential hot spots.
Sensor fusion is taking place within the commercial remote sensing arena as military users combine different forms of satellite imagery to generate advanced intelligence and mission planning products. This imagery also is being combined with data from diverse sources such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and topographical archives to redefine geospatial information.
A combination of faster computing capabilities, lower cost storage and improved software is opening new markets for commercial satellite imagery in the 1-meter and, in the future, 0.5-meter resolution range. Although these images were once reserved for U.S. government and military uses, today a wide range of organizations is purchasing them to support their missions. From monitoring activity in other countries and creating accurate simulation models to mapping underwater environments, pictures taken from space have become a valuable tool and have ushered the world into what some have termed the age of transparency.
A Web-based decision support system developed by private industry and university researchers allows government and military emergency responders to build situational awareness pictures of an unfolding crisis. The support tool taps data from diverse sources, translates it to a common database and presents it according to user needs.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, fresh from assuming a new name less than a year ago, is striving to meet several self-imposed goals to address shortcomings and to confront the challenges of 21st century network-centric warfare. On its to-do list are converting fully to digital products and services; pursuing an e-business model; and transforming its architecture. It also seeks to pursue advanced forms of geospatial intelligence, including electromagnetic spectrum, and to mature the ability to capitalize on airborne collection. And, the agency's leadership foresees a need for two new headquarters facilities to deal with burgeoning responsibilities and an increased terror threat.