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Intelligence

Tag Teaming Big Data

August 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Two closely related science and technology programs aim to improve image location and search capabilities, saving intelligence analysts significant time and effort.

Tackling Big Data With Small Projects

August 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Army officials envision a future in which ground and air platforms share data and where soldiers at a remote forward-operating base easily can access information from any sensor in the area, including national satellites or reconnaissance aircraft flying overhead.

Multiple Thrusts Define Geospatial Agency Big Data Efforts

August 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

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.

Federal Aviation Administration Approves First Unmanned Quadrotor

July 2, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The Instant Eye small unmanned aerial system received approval last Thursday from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to be used by an energy company, which will conduct research, development and training to see if the system is practical for inspecting infrastructure such as pipelines, power lines and insulators on towers. It is the first unmanned quadrotor to receive FAA certification and may be the lightest aircraft ever certified. The approval opens the door for the system to be used for a wide range of commercial applications.

NATO Testing Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Capabilities

May 16, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Representatives from the U.S. Army and Air Force, along with 17 NATO nations and three partner nations, will participate in a joint reconnaissance trial in Norway this month to test and evaluate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance concepts and technologies.

Ask the Expert: Next Steps for Intelligence After the Post-9/11 Era

June 1, 2014
By William M. Nolte

Q: What are the next steps for intelligence after the post-9/11 era?

A: The next steps should be a radical shift in how resources are allocated, not business
as usual on tighter budgets.

The “post-9/11” era is over. For years I’ve been telling students that a decade marked by the pre-eminence of terrorism as an issue, flush budgets and a volatile information environment has ended. Terrorism must now compete with cybersecurity, energy and other resource issues, regional conflicts and several other concerns in an extraordinary mix—or even a dangerous blending—of several issues. Now of course, we face a resurgent Russia, with all that implies for stability in both Europe and Asia.

As for flush budgets, those are a rapidly receding memory. This leaves, of the original characteristics of the post-9/11 era, only the volatile information environment, which shows no sign of slowing. If anything, its breadth as much as its pace continues to confound us as we deal with the full range of its implications—social, economic, political and legal. Every time I read an article suggesting that we have reached the limit to the amount of data we can put on a piece of silicon, I read another suggesting that silicon will be replaced by a virus or some other material ... or that quantum computing is finally about to arrive.

It Is Time to Stop the Daily Assaults on the Intelligence Community

June 1, 2014
By Kent R. Schneider

The world may be more dangerous today than in any period in history. Threats are widespread and diverse. It no longer is enough to watch nation-states. In this period of asymmetric warfare, with the addition of the cyberthreat, almost anyone can become a threat to national security. In this dangerous world, the value of intelligence has risen, and the tools and means of intelligence must be richer than in the past.

Intelligence Generates a Cyber Picture

June 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The borderless world of cybersecurity now is benefitting from geospatial intelligence products. The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has joined the fight against cybermarauders by providing imagery to help cyberwarriors track down online adversaries. Experts defending the United States from cyber attack abroad have a new tool in their kit by being able to see the facility from which digital malefactors are plying their wares.

National Security Agency Program Fills Critical Cyber Skills Gaps

June 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The first graduates are emerging from centers of excellence for cyber operations that teach the in-depth computer science and engineering skills necessary to conduct network operations. The program better prepares graduates to defend networks and should reduce the on-the-job training needed for new hires, saving both time and money.

The National Security Agency (NSA) initiated the Centers of Academic Excellence-Cyber Operations (CAE-CO) program in 2012. Eight schools were designated centers of excellence in the first two years with another round of announcements expected in mid-June. Agency officials say they hope eventually to have a total of 20 to 25 schools on the list.

The effort is a deeply technical, interdisciplinary, higher education program firmly grounded in the computer science, computer engineering and electrical engineering disciplines. “We had noticed that a lot of graduates coming out of universities didn’t have quite the same skills that they’ve had in the past,” recalls Steve LaFountain, dean of the College of Cyber, National Cryptologic School, and the distinguished academic chair for information assurance and cyber, NSA. “Some of the skills needed in the cyber operations field, such as low-level programming, deep knowledge of networks and network protocols and understanding of operating systems internals, were starting to become less emphasized by academic programs.”

The change in school curricula is understandable because a lot of jobs today are focused on Web applications and mobile applications and require a different skill set than today’s cyber operations, he adds. “Instead of doing C programming, they’re now doing Java, Perl and Python programming. We decided to create this program and focus the requirements on the skills necessary for cyber operations,” LaFountain explains.

Boston Marathon Bombing Lessons Learned

April 30, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Intelligence agencies could have investigated more thoroughly and shared information more effectively, but even if they had performed perfectly, they may not have been able to prevent last year's Boston Marathon bombing, according to a report delivered before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

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