Intell data sharing requires high degree of cooperation

Success depends on standards, improved processes and safeguards that protect secure data

As the challenge of protecting America’s borders and citizens evolves and geospatial intelligence becomes a more critical element in that effort, more agencies need access to geospatial intelligence data. Sharing this data requires a focus on standards, improved processes and safeguards that protect secure data.

Geospatial intelligence imagery gathered by military agencies is now being shared by many groups that use it for counter terrorism and to help in natural disasters, to name a few. There’s been significant improvement in this data sharing in recent years, but there’s still a lot of work to be done, according to panelists at GEOINT 2011 Symposium in San Antonio, Texas. Many stressed the need to constantly focus on data sharing as they addressed the theme of this year’s conference, “forging integrated intelligence,” on October 18.

“One message that needs to be reinforced is that we always have to keep asking ‘who else needs to know this information’ and ‘who else can help me solve the questions I’m trying to solve,” said Maj. Gen. Mary A. Legere, commanding general of the Army Intelligence and Security Command. “We have to have the mindset that we’re all in a big tent. All the people that gather and use the data must be in the same tent so we don’t miss an opportunity.”

Technical issues will also play a critical role in the broad efforts to get many agencies to share data and work towards a common goal. Hardware, networks and communication protocols must be compatible before any real data sharing can occur.

“It’s absolutely critical to use data standards, and they have to be harmonized so everyone is using the same versions,” said Kshemendra Paul, program manager for the Information Sharing Environment at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. That’s difficult when multiple military groups are involved, and it becomes more vexing when state and county agencies are also sharing files.

Regardless of where the data is being used, it must be presented in a way that’s simple for users to understand. A warfighter who’s under fire or a first responder trying to save a life doesn’t have time to figure out what they’re viewing.

“The intelligence community needs to translate intelligence into fighter pilot-ese. A combat pilot over Basra does not care about whether you’re calling it ISR or imagery, and when you mention the enterprise, he thinks first of Star Trek,” said James Clark, director of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Innovations for the Deputy Chief of Staff for ISR at Air Force Headquarters.

“There is a renewed focus on the need to provide warnings. The first objective in the DIA strategic plan is to change the organization so we have the right focus on warnings,” said Ed Mornston, director of the Joint Intelligence Task Force on Combating Terrorism with the Directorate for Analysis at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

One key requirement for all agencies is the ability to learn from mistakes. The intelligence community hopes that the next time there’s a major event such as the Arab spring uprisings, it will be at the leading edge rather than attracting criticism for not predicting its beginnings.

“We’ve looked hard to see what we can learn from what we missed before the Arab spring,” Legere said.

About the Author

Terry Costlow is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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