The era of the analyst-led, multi-agency “scavenger hunt” for intelligence information needs to end, and the National Reconnaissance Office plans to do its part as part of the U.S. intelligence community’s ongoing transformation,
a top National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) official said during the Oct. 23 panel “Strategic Analysis Transformation” here at the Geoint 2007
Lance Killoran, the NRO’s new director for imagery acquisition and operations, used the occasion to provide details of the changes his agency plans to make
. The NRO changes will be part of the U.S. intelligence community’s effort to streamline its operations and deliver accurate information more quickly to strategic analysts and tactical warfighters.
cautioned that NRO’s planned reorganization is a “work in progress,” but he outlined those changes he said have been agreed to under the agency’s five-month-long
internal transformation process. Underlying the changes, he said, is NRO’s determination to focus on intelligence problems – “What is the capability of that weapon system?”- rather than on the data within specific categories of intelligence, called “ints” in the intelligence community’s parlance.
NRO is responsible for two major intelligence information categories: the U.S. signals intelligence and imaging satellites. Until now, NRO has managed these satellites through separate management chains or “towers.” Critics have contended that these management towers act almost like separate agencies with their own, unique bureaucratic cultures.
“We’re going to take the sigint mission management organization, and the [imagery intelligence] mission management organization, and we’re going to bring them together in one place,” Killoran said.
The signals intelligence and imaging intelligence satellites and their ground stations around the world will be controlled by one operations organization, Killoran said. “We no longer will have an operations directorate under [signals intelligence] and one under [imaging intelligence],” Killoran said.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John T. Sheridan, deputy director of the NRO, said the reorganization is intended to accelerate the agency’s transition to a sensor-neutral ground infrastructure that emphasizes flexibility. “The most flexible system is not in space – it’s on the ground,” he said.
The change means that analysts who have had to navigate through two NRO organizations will now be able to approach one organization with a request to task a satellite to study a certain problem or geographic region.
NRO often refers to its reconnaissance satellites as a constellation, and the change would make good on that description. “We’re going to try to treat the constellation as a constellation [by having it] attack a problem as a constellation,” Killoran said.
NRO also plans to add Internet-style metadata to its digital information so that analysts can be alerted to possibly related information from other sensors or even human intelligence.
“There [will be] links to other data that says, ‘Oh by the way, either at that locale, or at that time, or relative to that problem that was tasked, there is this other data out there,” Killoran said.
said he hopes to end the days when intelligence analysts had to cultivate friends in each different intelligence arena to gain access to information.
“Then what do we do to you?” he said of the intelligence analysts. “We send you on the ultimate scavenger hunt across all of the systems and agencies to try to pull data that’s now been distributed out there together relative to your problem. You may or may not be successful. It depends a little bit on your perseverance,” he added.
also criticized some of those who operate intelligence tools. He said managers sometimes act as though they own the systems and their products.
“Just because you built a collector, or you operate a collector, or you task a collector, or you analyze the data, or you exploit the data, you do not have a deed of ownership to that data. That data belongs to, if anyone, the taxpayer,” he said.
To get at the ownership problem, NRO plans to bring into being a new Enterprise Integration Division, with a new director to be named “in the not too distant future,” Killoran said.
“We’ve got to move from a world of onerous data to ownerless data,” he said.