Army Geospatial Information Officer Joseph Fontanella

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Joseph Fontanella was selected to the Senior Executive Service in January to serve as director of the Army Geospatial Center in Alexandria, Va. The center is the Army’s knowledge center for geospatial expertise. Fontanella was the center’s deputy director before the promotion.

The Army Geospatial Center collects, disseminates and analyzes geospatial data for the units that it supports. It also provides direct acquisition support to multiple program executive officers and program managers involved in national and tactical programs. The center also conducts research into geospatial data management, information constructs, data generation, enterprise technology, applications and sensors.


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Fontanella also is the Army’s geospatial information officer, with responsibility for collecting and validating geospatial requirements, formulating geospatial policy, and setting priorities and securing resources in support of the Army Geospatial Enterprise.

He spoke with Defense Systems Editor-in-Chief Barry Rosenberg about AGE, the Army’s primary geospatial requirements and near-term acquisition plans for the Army Geospatial Center.

DS: The Army Geospatial Center is organized under the Army Corps of Engineers. So is the geospatial information that you collect related to the corps' work, or is it tactical geospatial information as well?

Fontanella: That’s an interesting question because we are part of the corps. The corps’ mission of topography goes back to the days of the founding of our country, the expeditions of Lewis and Clark, and the mapping of the West. So this business is one that’s traditionally been a core business.

But to answer your question, in my role as the geospatial information officer, I report to the Geospatial Governance Board, which is comprised of three stars. It’s co-chaired by the chief of engineers and Army G2. Other voting members that sit on this board are the CIO/G-6; the military deputy for the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology; and the G8. And then we have a number of nonvoting members that include members from [the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency], the other services and the special operations community.

So although we’re a Corps of Engineers organization, really at the heart of what I’m responsible for is something that we call the Army Geospatial Enterprise. And this enterprise is designed to increase efficiency, reduce duplication, minimize overhead, enable cost stewardship, and instill a culture of savings within both the Army and the National System for Geospatial Intelligence.

So this enterprise that we’re working toward really is focused on promulgating a common operating picture that allows Army operations and unified mission command to achieve what we would like to call shared situational awareness between U.S., cross U.S., and coalition elements. And the way we get there is through standardized geospatial information collection, management, analysis, visualization, and dissemination.

DS: What would you say are the Army’s primary geospatial information needs as they relate to development of a common operating picture for commanders?

Fontanella: There are two related concerns regarding the Army’s geospatial needs. The first is to provide a consistent, synchronized, high-resolution-where-it’s-required, 3-D framework [that provides} a standard and sharable geospatial foundation. That’s the term we like to use — SSGF, standard and sharable geospatial foundation — which supports the common operating picture and supports correct correlation and registration of situational awareness.

And then the second is turning geospatial data into information and knowledge that supports the commander’s decisions. And this could include all components of geography, to include human geography. So it’s not just about terrain in the traditional topographic sense, but it’s also human terrain. It’s all sorts of data that have a time stamp and a location stamp. And the way that we exploit that has undergone a revolutionary change in the last couple years. We focused in the past on hard-copy mapping products, like the standard topographic line maps that traditionally have been produced by NGA and its legacy organizations.

They’re still critical to current operations, but we also need more detailed, interactive digital geospatial data and the enterprise technology that goes along with it, which is essential to today’s warfighters.

DS: You’ve got a number of major acquisitions planned in the next year. Please bring me up-to-date on those.

Fontanella: First is the Geospatial Research, Integration, Development, Support program (GRIDS II). There are two solicitations. One is [a] $48.5 million small-business set-aside, [indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity] multiple award, and solicitation release time frame is this quarter. At a minimum, we’re looking for interested offers to be able to identify and address gaps in geospatial science and technologies, develop geospatial services and enabled architectures, and then provide biometric tools, applications, technologies, techniques and procedures, and then finally database development management and experience.

The second part of this is a $200 million full and open competition, IDIQ single award, and we’re expecting that solicitation will come out in the first quarter of fiscal 2012. At a minimum, we’re expecting offers to be able to provide systems engineering, software development and processes, conduct the integration synchronization and transition to C4ISR concepts, processes, and architectures — plus developing, integrating and operating various ISR payload types, which will include, but not be limited to EO/IR, hyper spectral, lidar, radar and SIGINT.

And then besides that, we have two others. The first is what we call Military Terrain III. That’s a $247 million full and open IDIQ multiple award. This work is associated with military terrain and water resources analyses, databases and environmental studies of select areas of the world, and then the collection, management and dissemination of geospatial data to include both CONUS and OCONUS deployed support. We expect this to come out probably second quarter fiscal 2012.

And the last one is High-Resolution 3D Geospatial. This is the largest one, $497 million full and open IDIQ. The scope here is the development, integration and operation of ISR payload types. Again the same ones we just talked about: EO/IR, hyper spectral and so forth, into various platforms from ground based to airborne to support situational awareness, ISR and tactical requirements. This one we’re still in the process of drafting the acquisition strategy for this, and we don’t expect this to be released until fiscal 2013 first quarter or so.

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