Legislation working its way through the U.S. Senate would give the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) authority to add ground-based photography and video to its information product portfolio.
The NGA is responsible for processing, archiving and distributing imagery collected by aircraft and satellites for use by the military and the intelligence community. Adding photos and video taken from the ground to that mix would help give soldiers a more complete picture of the area in which they operate, proponents of the measure say.
The measure is included in the Senate version of the 2007 intelligence authorization bill (S. 3237), which was approved by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence May 25. As of June 14, the legislation was still under consideration by Senate Armed Services Committee.
In its current form, the legislation would not give NGA authority to manage or set technical requirements for the collection of ground-based photos or video, a responsibility the agency does have in the case of satellites.
In the report accompanying the legislation, the Senate intelligence panel said the NGA has been “slow to embrace other facets of ‘geospatial intelligence’ that have recently been enabled by advances in technology,” and specifically cited ground-based photography and full-motion video among those. The NGA’s current library is made up largely of overhead imagery and mapping products, and additional information sources are needed to provide a more complete picture for war fighters, the report said.
The report said the NGA could obtain ground-based photography from various open sources and full-motion video from other government agencies. Both would help show ground-based soldiers what a facility looks like from their own perspective, rather than from above .
NGA spokesman David Burpee said the agency would not comment on the bill because it does not discuss pending legislation. Staffers with the Senate intelligence panel could not be reached for comment.
Ed Jurkevics, an analyst with Chesapeake Analytics of Arlington, Va., said photos and full-motion video taken from the ground are natural extensions of satellite and aerial imagery .
“I think [the legislation] highlights the fact that the scope of what is considered ‘geospatial information’ continues to grow, because so much military information has a location on the Earth,” Jurkevics said. “The boots on the ground need it and demand it, because street-side pictures reflect the full, three-dimensional world in which a soldier operates.”
The NGA announced May 11 that it plans to work with Microsoft Corp. of Redmond, Wash., to use the company’s Virtual Earth software program for humanitarian, peace-keeping and national security-related applications. The arrangement includes collaboration with the company to share information and techniques. Microsoft spokesmen have said that they plan to step up their own collection of ground-based imagery to further enhance the 3-D aspects of Virtual Earth.