ORLANDO, Fla. — Providing data and other resources to those working nuclear non proliferation issues involving countries such as North Korea has become a major focus of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) this year, according to its new director .
“It’s absolutely vital,” said U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Robert B. Murrett during a press conference following his Nov. 14 speech here at the Geo int 2006 Symposium — one of his first public appearances since taking over for retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper in July.
Supporting counterproliferation efforts has always been a major mission area for the NGA, which was created a decade ago by the merger of several military and intelligence organizations that make and distribute maps and other geospatial data products. But just as Hurricane Katrina and other disasters put the spotlight on NGA’s emergency-response mission last year, events in North Korea and Iran raised the profile of its counterproliferation role this year.
The NGA is supporting the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s National Counterproliferation Center in a number of ways, such as embedding NGA experts in the center and serving on advisory boards, Murrett said.
But while such things as the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons are vitally important to the nation’s security, Murrett said NGA still has to balance its activities in those areas with other important responsibilities, such as getting information to the warfighters in Iraq.
“Balancing future threats with demands of the current warfighter is a constant challenge,” Murrett said in his speech. Murrett identified a number of areas he is focused on at NGA, including developing a commercial imagery strategy, forming international partnerships, integrating data from airborne sources, and the challenges that go along with moving NGA to a new campus at Fort Belvoir, Va., by 2011. The majority of planning for the move, such as decisions about what to do with existing infrastructure, will be made in the next 18 months, Murrett said.
The next few months also will see the close of one phase of the GeoScout program, an effort to develop a ground-based infrastructure that will help all the users of NGA’s satellite and other data better distribute, share and exploit information.
Block 1 of the Geoscout program, which consists of developing the infrastructure for the upgrade of existing systems, is on track to be completed by mid-January , Murrett said. The program, which has faced implementation challenges, is the subject of 30-day and 60-day external reviews , and Murrett said he will take the resulting recommendations into account in mapping out the program’s future. However, Block 2 of the program already is under way. Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., is the prime contractor for GeoScout.
Murrett called on the commercial community to diversify its capabilities and focus its technology development efforts on things that will improve interaction between the different intelligence agencies. From a research and development standpoint, Murrett said NGA is most in need of storage capacity for large amounts of data so that it can make better use of streaming video applications, adding that commercial companies could play a role in making that happen.
During the press conference, Murrett declined to characterize what kind of purchasing vehicle he expected to see in the future for NGA’s commercial partnerships, whether government funding of commercial satellites through programs like NextView would continue or whether the government would merely purchase data through a vehicle like its Clearview program.
He said that he expected NGA to maintain a “consistent, unbroken connection with our commercial vendors,” and that a funding gap would not occur between existing programs and what eventually will come.