• Dave Gauthier, director, Commercial Space and Business Operations, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, participates in a panel at the Intelligence and National Security Summit. Photo by Herman Farrer
     Dave Gauthier, director, Commercial Space and Business Operations, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, participates in a panel at the Intelligence and National Security Summit. Photo by Herman Farrer

NGA to Allow Commercial Sources as Primary

September 14, 2021
By Kimberly Underwood
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Geospatial-intelligence agency ‘flips the script’ in letting its workforce build intel from commercial solutions first, instead as secondary sources.


The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, in seeking to harness innovation and aid its workforce in the development of intelligence, is allowing its analysts for the first time to use commercial solutions as primary sources, reported Dave Gauthier, director, Commercial Space and Business Operations, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

Gauthier spoke during an afternoon panel at AFCEA International and INSA’s 2021 Intelligence and National Security Summit in National Harbor, Maryland, on September 14.

As part of its procurement approach, the NGA has enabled the purchase of commercial geospatial intelligence- (GEOINT-) related solutions for some time. The problem, though, has been a bottleneck in the cultural adoption of those capabilities amongst NGA analysts and its greater workforce, said.

The agency aims to fix that issue through a new policy being developed by top leaders.

“[NGA Director] Vice Admiral [Robert] Sharp is about to sign out an Enterprise Commercial GEOINT Strategy,” he reported. “For the first time, the strategy makes the paradigm shift that tells our entire community of GEOINT professionals: 'Thou shall go out and use commercial sources as primary sources of intelligence for your production.'”

It has been common to use commercial sources of geospatial data and information as an augmenting or secondary, confirming source. “[But it was] not as the foundation or the beginning of the process,” he said. “That is us flipping the script.”

To support the new policy and the shift in how employees can craft geospatial intelligence, the agency is following through with complementary procurement activities, he shared.

“We’ve been very focused on commercial analytical services because of their ease of integration and adoption into the workflow,” Gauthier added. “If someone can provide information-as-a-service, it becomes one more supply line of source information.”

In fact, the NGA has put in place three new services contracts in the last six months to go after procuring commercial services related to radio frequency emanation, economic indications and monitoring, he concluded.

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