DHS Seeking Coherent Mission for Geospatial Intelligence #GEOINT

Caryn Wagner, the Undersecretary of Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spoke on making progress in developing a coherent departmental culture. She said that she was working on the foundational things that more established departments do such as a quadrennial departmental review. Modeled on Department of Defense, quadrennial reviews are the culmination of much deliberation and thought about the mission of the DHS. Wagner said there were many disparate components and capturing the vision and the way forward was a significant undertaking to be able to secure the homeland.

She said that one of the first goals was to find the department’s "analytical niche." With a mission of fighting counterterrorism, Wagner said that DHS receives much data on travel and that travel analysis is one large area of expertise. Her challenge is to come up with creative ways to display that information such as depicting travel routes of interest and visualizing geographic patterns.

In discussing priority areas, Wagner said that securing the borders is a main focus. She said that DHS is looking at creating an intelligence fusion center in El Paso, Texas, where the department can pull all the data together and combine it to produce better situational awareness for all agencies to come up with actionable information. Wagner believes there will be many customers for that information as they watch trends along the border. She stressed a multi-INT approach with geospatial data underpinning analysis but making sure we data can be shared among agencies at lowest possible classification level.

I came away from this presentation concerned that the mission of DHS had not been established long ago and question why DHS is just now getting around to understanding their “analytical niche.” Wagner admitted that DHS is a “young” agency. However, with the important mission of securing the homeland it appeared that functional areas related to geospatial intelligence had yet to be discerned.

[Disclosure: The USGIF supported a portion of travel costs to the conference this year.]

Published Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Written by Joe Francica

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