Article Entry

22 Sep 2010


USGIF President Defines “Geospatial Intelligence” in Latest Issue of Geospatial Intelligence Forum

Added by Category: Daily Intelligence Brief, General

Ask 10 people to define “geospatial intelligence,” and you are likely to get 10 different answers. Words you might hear would include imagery, photogrammetry, geography, cartography, geographic information systems, analysis and remote sensing—and the list could go on longer. According to U.S. Code Title 10, “the term ‘geospatial intelligence’ means the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth. Geospatial intelligence consists of imagery, imagery intelligence and geospatial information.” This legal definition paints with a broad brushstroke an idea of the width and depth of GEOINT. Geospatial intelligence can’t be defined by a particular program or product. Read the full GIF “From the Desk of the President” Column here as well as in this post.

It encompasses all aspects of imagery, to include capabilities formerly referred to as advanced geospatial intelligence, and information derived from the analysis of literal imagery and non-literal analysis of spectral, spatial, temporal, radiometric, phase history and polarimetric data.

Also included is the ancillary data needed for data processing and exploitation, and signature information to include development, validation, simulation, data archival and dissemination. These data types can be collected on stationary or moving platforms by E/O, IR, SAR or MTI sensors.

Within all of this exists a persistent misperception, however, that GEOINT is primarily collected from space platforms. That is absolutely not the case. From hydrographic data collection to surveyors on the ground, and manned and unmanned aerial systems—and to space—the collection of GEOINT is broadly based.

Airborne-based GEOINT in particular has become increasingly important. Homeland security officials and battlefield commanders alike have developed a nearly insatiable appetite for more imagery, motion imagery and full motion video both overseas and along our borders.

Still, even within the defense, intelligence and homeland security communities, more often than not, we discuss airborne ISR challenges and capabilities separately from space platforms. There are deeply entrenched bureaucratic and historical reasons for this, including diverse acquisition authorities, funding and oversight. Accordingly, conferences, symposia and meetings have also been organized along the lines of the divided airborne and space “camps,” further reinforcing the idea that never shall the two communities meet.

These divides simply are not useful. In fact, I think they are now more than ever impediments to having meaningful conversations about how we can most effectively and efficiently serve mission requirements—in a multi-INT sense, not just with GEOINT.

This year, USGIF plans to take a significant step in the right direction with our program at the GEOINT 2010 Symposium. In discussions with government and industry leaders over the last year, we agreed that as a community we needed to do a better job discussing our common concerns in depth. There are obviously benefits that we could derive from coordinating solutions to our collective challenges.

Thus, we have decided to devote an entire day of discussion at our annual symposium to end-to-end airborne ISR issues. The Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS) was initially our focus, but over time the idea progressed into a broader theme characterized by the Defense Intelligence Information Enterprise (DI2E).

I am incredibly proud of the past accomplishments of GEOINT Symposia and the maturation of the event over time. Borrowing from the movie Ghostbusters, being able to “cross the streams” of the GEOINT community (which would be a good thing in this case), by bringing together the DCGS/airborne ISR/DI2E “world” with the “world” of space-based collection and processing, is an important milestone in the growth of USGIF and the GEOINT Symposium.

The GEOINT community isn’t just about space or airborne or even collection. It is far more, and with the near-ubiquity of GPS, enabling location-based services, the “power of place,” in the grandest sense, has never been greater. The emergent re-imagining of geospatial intelligence is reflected in the content of this year’s symposium, and articulated by this year’s theme: “Geospatial Intelligence 3.0 … a new era of GEOINT.” With this we are highlighting the future of the community where technologies, capabilities and even philosophies surrounding geospatial intelligence are entering a new and very exciting phase.

Our array of plenary speakers and panelists reflects this broader, evolved view of GEOINT as both a distinct intelligence discipline as well as the horizontal underpinning for all intelligence disciplines, and for planning and conducting operations. Confirmed speakers include the director of national intelligence, DIA director, NGA director, NRO director, NSA deputy director, and ISR Task Force director. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and State Department will also be represented at the flag/SES level during GEOINT 2010.

We hope you are as excited about this lineup and the entire GEOINT Symposium as we are. We encourage you to register early to take advantage of the cost savings and to book your room in one of the four official GEOINT 2010 hotels.

You can start discussing the symposium, connecting to speakers, meeting exhibitors and planning your week at, home of the CrowdVine social networking site created just for the symposium. Also, follow us on Twitter @geointsymposium and @USGIF. Of course you can always visit the Website for all the latest updates and details on the event.

GEOINT 2010 is going to be another great symposium. I look forward to exchanging thoughts with you on CrowdVine, and I hope to see you in New Orleans.


Keith J. Masback

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