Perspective on GeoINT 2005

By Hal Reid

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The GeoINT conference is where you get to not only see the latest technology, but also hear and meet those who affect national policy, and drive the technology to the next level.

It is a paradox, because generally intelligence types are usually very low profile.Yet, at this conference the major government and industry leaders are giving speeches, hanging out on the trade show floor and are at all the receptions.I haven't sat down and talked technology with one of these people, but I believe it is within the realm of possibility.

Last year, there was a feeling in the air that was a combination of excitement, determination and like the smell of a new car, a sense of pending adventure.I commented last year that at one of the clubs on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, this group both looked like and had the feel of what must have been 1939 Paris.Something was happening and we were all on the path to meet whatever it was whether we wanted to or not.Events were in motion and beyond control.

This year was different.The presentations were just as good if not better, and there was new and different technology.While the theme was transformation, the discussions of knowledge sharing, mission blending, GeoCells (combinations of personnel from the
National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency) and shared footprints were subtle but tangible indications of what had happened in the past year.From how people talked at the conference, it seems that there has been transformation, but it's certainly not complete.While cooperation was still not as tight as it might be, both transformation and cooperation were considered givens.

Last year we heard about plans for open systems and platform independence, while this year it was more of a fact.Everybody has expressed that interoperability is the quest.

But the major change to the look and feel of this conference was that it had become more mature.There was more production and process and less figuring it out.I think there was also a new pride with the NGA in being able to support natural disasters like Katrina and show what could be done (without compromising national security) and actually provide something of direct benefit to those folks who actually pay for it all.

Quite possibly, transformation had included a new understanding that the mission was much broader.It has more facets than had been imagined and now they are a year down the road, and have the benefit of a year's worth of perspective.

But while this year had a different kind of excitement than last year and even if perhaps it was a more subdued, it is still strong enough you can't wait until GeoINT2006.

Published Thursday, November 17th, 2005

Written by Hal Reid

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