NGA transformation dependent on sensors, tech

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will lean heavily on information technology to transform from its Cold War-era mapmaking mission to its new war-on-terrorism job of imagery analysis and delivery.

The newly named NGA will build a new IT infrastructure to support the Future Imagery Architecture, the Defense Department's fast, next-generation video and data system. The agency will use unmanned aerial vehicles, big model airplanes carrying cameras and sensors, to photograph objects up to one meter from the Earth. The vehicles will then quickly transmit the imagery to warfighters and analysts, said a retired Navy vice admiral and former top military IT official.

"The military always wanted to get intelligence to warfighters, analysts and policy-makers more quickly, but it seldom did that," said Jerry Tuttle, president and chief executive officer of JOT Enterprises LLC, a consulting firm in Fairfax, Va. "NGA's new use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms and IT will get real-time, detailed imagery to them so they no longer miss enemy buildings previously photographed from 10 meters."

NGA's newly released mission statement and plan, "Corporate Transformation Business Plan: Transformation is Everyone's Responsibility," emphasizes the use of platforms and IT to speed the gathering, processing, analyzing and delivering of imagery in eight categories.

They are:

Geospatial intelligence: Using software to provide detailed digital maps by overlaying information from several intelligence sources.

Information access and services: Gathering, processing and analyzing imagery using a common architecture, networking hardware and bandwidth.

Workforce: Hiring and training knowledgeable imagery intelligence analysts.

Workplace: Constructing secure buildings and buying easy-to-use IT.

Resource management: Implementing fiscal investment strategies.

Functional management: Following best business practices.

Operational readiness: Carrying out the responsibilities of the agency.

Advancing capabilities: Providing products for customers instead of the agency.

NGA's director said the United States' threat assessments demand an information revolution at the agency.

"We are no longer facing known threats with known capabilities and forces," said NGA Director James Clapper Jr. in the NGA transformation plan. "These factors make it very difficult to plan against the threats posed by our enemies. They also multiply the challenges the agency faces in providing our customers the information and knowledge they demand — in a timely manner and in a ready-to-use format."

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