Admiral William H. McRaven, Commander, United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), United States Navy began the Thursday morning keynotes at the GEOINT Symposium by stating that "as we have global impacts, we have to have global perspective." As of last week, Special Operation Forces (SOF) operate in 84 countries around the world. While many speakers early in the week have touted the new technologies underpinning the intelligence mission, Admiral McRaven explained the global mission of SOF. The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) supports and talks to the geographic (GCC), theatre (TSOC) and more localized commands on a constant basis. He spoke about "forcing communications" between theatre level commands, the TSOC's, which are really the center of gravity in the operation. Initially, TSOC's questioned the relevance of this engagement, but this has been overcome. Increasingly it's becoming clear that "what happens in South America is connected to what happens in Africa ... in Asia ... "
Admiral McRaven discussed the power of partnering--"we'll partner with anybody"--to get information to support the mission. And the list of current partners was indeed diverse, ranging from private companies such as FedEx, to universities, to many allied intelligence agencies from Commonwealth and NATO countries and beyond.
Addressing the symposium audience he re-iterated "Everything I just told you about is GEOINT. We can't break out the GEOINT ... it underlies everything."
When asked how important high-quality, commercial-of-the-shelf (COTS) imagery is, Admiral McRaven replied "the NGA provides exquisite imagery--used to make very important decisions--but the ability to share with our allied partners is problematic. Good, private imagery off the shelf can be shared" and that too, provides great value.
Asked to address the cultural change in SOF that began before and continues into his command, he spoke to the historical perception that all situations required direct response to situations. "Look at Iraq, Afghanistan ... we have to partner direct action [counter terrorism and special warfare] with partner-capacity building. We learned many valuable lessons in Afghanistan."
And on how industry can remain "out front" he spoke directly, and challenged industry by echoing a message heard many times throughout this year's symposium, "build systems that naturally collaborate with each other." He stated that great partners build great unique capabilities continuing that benefit is found in a variety of solutions but these solutions need to "be able to share. As you build platforms, imagery, visualization, no matter what I throw on a server someplace, it's got to be compatible to what's out there."
Photo provided courtesy of USGIF