Army leaders were eager to discuss how new developments in geospatial intelligence, or GEOINT, could inform and embolden Soldier missions and tactical movements during Army GEOINT Service Day, a United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation event held virtually on Aug. 11.
Event participants, including senior personnel from the Army, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the tech industry, explored opportunities and barriers the Army faces when assessing how to translate information culled by next-generation geographic data collection tools into the hands of Soldiers in the field.
Panel speakers detailed how the Army can extract strategic information from GEOINT data and imagery to inform sensor-to-shooter mechanisms, long-range precision fires, troop movements, tactical vehicle maneuvers and mission command decisions, as well as pass data securely in a degraded environment and further develop augmented reality equipment and synthetic training environments.
Retired Maj. Gen. Gary Johnston, former commander of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, stressed that commercial imagery, GEOINT and geospatial data are necessary for constructing “the real-time picture that we need to enable commanders’ decision-making and decreasing that shooter-to-sensor timeline.”
Speakers also examined how the Army can advance implementation of new GEOINT technologies and capabilities while incorporating vigorous DevSecOps and feedback loops to ensure sensitive positional data is protected from intrusion or disruption by adversaries or deepfake technology.
“Today, tactical networks are so critical for what we do, and they’ve evolved to be so much better than they used to be. But in a contested environment, they could actually go backwards,” said Gary Blohm, director of the Army Geospatial Center. “We’re working very hard with the community to be able to make sure we can get this GEOINT data to the decision-makers, to the tactical edge.”
Army officials agreed on the importance of building and maintaining strong, interconnected networks capable of collecting and applying GEOINT skillfully and swiftly, such as through machine learning, even under unideal circumstances.
“We’ve got to be able to anticipate that the way we are used to sharing data with one another may not be available to us at the time of need,” said Col. Toby Magsig, commander of the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command. Magsig emphasized the likelihood of future military operations occurring in denied, disrupted, intermittent and limited bandwidth environments.
In addition to embracing state-of-the-art technologies, speakers discussed the criticality of producing GEOINT tools that could be used with minimal training by Soldiers who may otherwise have limited familiarity with GEOINT.
Ed Mornston, director of intelligence and security at Army Futures Command, said that the Army’s commitment to Soldier-centered design has “had an immediate positive effect on our ability to modernize, both in terms of performance and in terms of speed.”
Participants also spoke to the value of enhancing coordination among U.S. government entities working closely with GEOINT, integrating key support from the tech industry.
Maj. Gen. Charlie Cleveland, associate director for operations at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, described the agency’s enthusiastic and ongoing participation in Project Convergence and other Army Futures Command-led exercises involving training and close collaboration with Army GEOINT practitioners.
“As we look to where the Army is going in the future, with Multi-Domain Operations and everything else, we think Army Futures Command is really a place where we need to be further tied in, and we want to continue to work very, very closely with the Army Futures Command,” Cleveland said.