Robert Cardillo, the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, speaks to the GEOINT 2017 symposium June 5. Credit: USGIF

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will need to do more to help the U.S. deal with ongoing tensions with North Korea, the organization’s director, Robert Cardillo, said Monday.

“We’re proud of the contributions we’re making, and we’re equally aware that we’re not doing enough,” Cardillo told reporters at the annual GEOINT Symposium, hosted by the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation.

NGA doesn’t “have a higher priority” than North Korea, and is putting “everything that we can into” the country, he said.

“Because North Korea’s such a closed place, [there is] not a lot of open source running around there, unless they’re publishing it, which obviously they want us to hear. It’s a very hard country,” Cardillo said, adding that the emphasis on satellite imaging of the reclusive nation “fits into what we can do.”

Cardillo compared the situation to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, noting that NGA’s predecessors identified the nuclear missiles the Soviet Union had installed on the island.

“In this case, they went to President [John F.] Kennedy and gave him enough information in time and space to defeat the problem, to showdown [Soviet leader Nikita] Khrushchev and end up with having the missiles withdrawn,” the director said. “I believe it’s incumbent upon us to do the same thing for North Korea, and because I haven’t done it we’re not being successful.”

He vowed to “drive relentlessly” at improving the intelligence NGA can provide about North Korea.

“Even though it’s not 90 miles away, technology changes, and we can be threatened from a mobile nuclear-tipped missile that’s on another peninsula a little further away,” Cardillo said.

Phillip Swarts is the military space reporter for SpaceNews. He previously covered space and advanced technology for Air Force Times, the Justice Department for The Washington Times, and investigative journalism for the Washington Guardian;...