Dixon calls for greater transparency and data interoperability

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DENVER – Spurred by policymakers, intelligence agencies declassified information on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “first for our allies and then for the public, allowing others to better understand what our intelligence was telling us,” Stacey Dixon, U.S. deputy director of national intelligence, said April 26 at the 2022 GEOINT Symposium here. “Commercial industry enabled that sharing and has continued to update the public as the war has raged on.”

The current conflict has underscored the need to fuse intelligence datasets, like geospatial intelligence, signals intelligence, human intelligence, earlier in the process, Dixon said, “not only because we must do so in order to push our craft further, but also because new tools and technologies give us the ability to do so. We must eliminate the vast majority of manual searching that is now required across systems by actively and automatically resolving entities and events based on all that it’s already known.”

Dixon also emphasized the need for government and industry to work on parallel tracks to make datasets interoperable.

For the intelligence community, that means increasing transparency by finding the right balance between protecting sources and methods, and sharing information with partners and the public as agencies did when Russia invaded Ukraine.

“We in the intelligence community stepped outside our comfort zone and used our existing processes to clear information that can be shared on a scale not seen before,” Dixon said. “Commercial GEOINT literally gave people the opportunity to see for themselves.”

As people leading intelligence agencies continue moving outside their comfort zone, the private sector needs to consider the correct balance between “proprietary, closely held systems, tools and technologies and those that can be shared openly in ways that encourage interoperability,” Dixon said.

Finding that balance will not be easy because of the costly investment companies have made, Dixon said.

Still, that work is necessary because “there are potentially enormous national security benefits to having more open competitive systems and sharing capabilities more broadly,” Dixon said. “We must be able to integrate the data and services you provide into our intelligence cycle. The systems you develop for and with us must be capable of handling data and information build to standards that allow this integration.”