Technology innovations, new roles and expanding missions are shaping the move toward big data in the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. A mix of tradecraft and technology is ensuing as the agency evolves from an organization that always has worked with voluminous imagery files to one in which big data represents a goal that promises to change many aspects of intelligence.
David Bottom is the director of the information technology services directorate at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). He explains that, with its imagery library, the NGA has been generating and using large data files for some time. Imagery resolution, file complexity and the number of files continue to increase. Bottom allows that the agency must transition from dealing in large data files to incorporating the concept of big data. “There is a lot of information in those large data files that you could consider to be big data,” he offers. “So how do we actually transition the agency—not just to being a large data file provider, but to that big data environment where there is a lot going on in those image files?”
Big data is not fundamentally changing the NGA’s mission, Bottom states. The capability does allow the agency to function as a foundation for integrated intelligence. It also provides increased capabilities in terms of being able to deliver a better product more quickly. “If those data points—and their relationships—are portrayed in time and space in a way that enables the user to quickly make sense of something, that is the power,” he declares.