NGA Establishes Unified GEOINT Operations
Ed. note: This article originally appeared in the
September/October 2007 issue of Pathfinder, published by the
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
For the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), collaboration is
the deliberate linking of people, the
processes they employ and the systems they use across the National
System for Geospatial Intelligence (NSG) and the national security
community. NGA recognizes the importance that collaboration plays in
analyzing and reporting on crucial geospatial intelligence (GEOINT)
issues and strives to be a lead partner in using this important tool.
In fact, the director of NGA has challenged the NSG community and NGA
to set the collaboration standard for the broader community in a
multi-intelligence (multi-INT) environment.
Unified GEOINT Operations
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, moving from a "need
to know" model to a "need to share" model in the intelligence business
has become a rallying cry. Unity of effort is now the predominant
theme, and that's what Unified GEOINT Operations (UGO) delivers.
A new way of thinking about the GEOINT business process, UGO is a
collaborative and coordinated effort to assess, align and execute
GEOINT analysis and production across the NSG and its partner
organizations. UGO is based on shared responsibility and trust to
optimize GEOINT capabilities in a rationally prioritized, needs-based
approach to analysis and production.
UGO initiatives include the formation of collaborative communities,
adoption of collaboration tools and procedures, development of an NSG
analysis and production strategy, documentation of a UGO model and
concept of operations, and issuance of an NSG community directory.
NGA promotes collaboration through town halls hosted by senior leaders,
through small group sessions and by rewarding collaborative efforts.
With guidance and training, NGA has championed the use of emerging
collaborative tools, such as wiki sites, blogs and chat rooms. It has
established Communities of Practice and Communities of Interest, where
teams share similar interests, tradecraft or goals. And it has
appointed issue managers to ensure the integration of their functional
or regional issues with other efforts both within and external to NGA.
A recently created analysis cell in one physical location provides a
multidisciplinary collaborative environment in which analysts can study
specific issues. NGA also hosts numerous Intelligence Community forums,
working groups and facility visits.
Joint duty - working in other organizations on a temporary basis - is a
priority at NGA. Such collaboration allows participants to widen their
perspective and cultivate cross-organizational networks, facility
knowledge and information sharing. To foster collaboration, NGA has
undertaken activities to acquire appropriate accesses for production
analysts, expanded the number of accessible workstations and worked
closely with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on its
collaborative initiatives. Collaborative activities have also included
the use of seals from both collaborating agencies on products.
Challenges to the accomplishment of these activities include the
efforts required in securing the appropriate hardware and software that
streamlines collaboration as well as time constraints imposed on the
workforce required to achieve acceptance and familiarization of new
tools and procedures. The benefits will be seen in the quality of NGA's
products and services.
One future goal is the development of a GEOINT Knowledge Base (GKB), a
virtual repository for all GEOINT holdings and analytic support
material. GKB will provide Web-based services for the discovery and
dissemination of GEOINT, allowing access for analysts to engage in
collaborative multi-INT analysis and product generation.
Collaboration is certainly not limited to the analytic ranks. Plans
call for operators of source collection assets, with specialized
knowledge of the assets they control, to work together to allocate
tasking in a manner that best optimizes and synchronizes collection
The Future Is Now
Collaboration challenges the cultural mindset of retaining knowledge in
a close-hold environment. It requires a paradigm shift among community
analysts and leadership commitment. In summary, the keys to successful
collaboration consist of a network of community expert partners,
interoperable access to sources, enabling tools and information, and a
culture that values, encourages and rewards outreach.
Published Saturday, October 20th, 2007