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Defence Intelligence: How is geoint affecting decision-making in every aspect of the world armed forces?

Hundreds of geo capability specialists, C4ISR and architect commanders will be gathering at Defence Geospatial Intelligence (DGI) 2011, January 24-27th in London to discuss how GEOINT is affecting and impacting every aspect of the worlds armed forces.

“Embedding geo capabilities into every command and control system will increase the requirement for accurate, fully attributed data as well as up-to-data imagery. Data management will become the key to success and the demand for Geo Technician will increase (and has increased) as systems come on-line. Data available could become the key factor in conducting operations.”

Lt. Col. Michael Cairns, Commanding Officer Mapping & Charting Establishment, Commandant School of Military, National Defence, Canada

Hundreds of geo capability specialists, C4ISR and architect commanders will be gathering at Defence Geospatial Intelligence (DGI) 2011, January 24-27th in London to discuss how GEOINT is affecting and impacting every aspect of the worlds armed forces. Geo capabilities are quickly becoming part of every day operations in all sections of a defence organisation. Armies are moving from having a small team of geo specialists to having every soldier, every staff officer and every civilian in the HQ use geo capabilities as a basis for decision-making.

“ It is important to understand that, for us, it’s not technology that will make a difference now. It’s how we use the technology within defence. It’s how we make sure that we get information to people; it’s how we make sure that all information is specially referenced in some way so we can use it in GIS. A whole range of images and data needs to be referenced in some way to be used effectively.”

Colonel John Kedar, Former Commander, JAGO, UK MOD

The question of effective delivery of imagery and analysis tools to the operator in-theatre remains key to every defence organisation. Every event happens in space and time. Accurate and timely imagery needs to not only arrive at the right destination on time, but to be used in concert with the available analysis and decision-making tools. Dozens of presentations at Defence Geospatial Intelligence (DGI) 2011 will be focusing on the latest use of GIS software, imagery and imagery analysis tools in war, in national security operations and in strategic planning. Although most defence and national security organisations are drowning in too much available imagery, it is the photographs, the images and the satellite views, that will give them the all important perspective and data to help make those life-death decisions.

As GEOINT becomes the starting point and the operating basis of every battle, command and control is quickly embracing the latest geo strategies. Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, Chief of Joint Operations at the UK MOD will be opening the conference to speak about his vision for geo capabilities in modern warfare, in command and control and in-theatre. Air Marshal Peach is responsible for the planning and execution of all UK military operations. He will be giving insight into the strategic role of geo capabilities in defence intelligence collection and analysis, as well as showing examples of effective use of GEOINT.

The morning opening session of Defence Geospatial Intelligence (DGI) 2011 will feature a guest keynote address from Vanessa Lawrence, Director General and Chief Executive of Ordnance Survey. Given the key role Ordnance Survey in the London 2012 Olympic Games, Vanessa Lawrence is an ideal source of information, strategies, plans and new ideas for using geographic information systems and geospatial intelligence in the national security operations in the UK.

One of the biggest aspects of this year’s Defence Geospatial Intelligence (DGI) 2011 conference is human terrain analysis. Knowing everything about the landscape is vital. Knowing everything about the people who live in the landscape turns out to be even more important. Winning battles doesn’t win wars any more. The enemy has become very sophisticated and is probably also using the latest and most sophisticated war equipment, tools and data. The Allied Forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and many other in-theatre operations are working hard on winning the hearts and minds of the locals, as that seems to be the most effective and pain-free way of winning a war these days. The HTA focus day on January 27th will share the latest experiences, strategies and success stories of using the “people knowledge” in-theatre. Senior commanders and strategists from UK, US and other countries will debate the best ways of collecting, managing, analysing and disseminating the human terrain data.

The Defence Geospatial Intelligence (DGI) 2011 team has recently interviewed a number of senior military staff to find out what they see as most important and challenging in the GEOINT community. Below are some of the answers to just one question.

To find out more and to read full interviews visit the DGI 2011 website:

If you had a magic wand and could change only one thing in the way GEOINT world operates, what would you do?


Michael W. Powers, Technical Director, Geospatial Research and Engineering, US ARMY

“I would place more emphasis on the expanded collection of cartographic features, physical and human environments and the methods to ensure topologically “clean” data.”

Steve Pyatt, Director, GEOINT Policy and Plans, New Zealand MoD

“Multi-level security and connectivity i.e. the ability to have a master geodatabase which holds data at the lowest appropriate classification level and then serve data and products upwards into the higher domains to save replicating and even re-creating everything for each level.”

Col. (ret) Neil Thompson, Managing Director, WC Group, Canada

“The Geospatial Intelligence community is slowly moving towards a more “joined up” Geospatial Intelligence enterprise approach. If we can accelerate the pace of using all types of imagery and data (space based, all types of air breathing, handheld, crowd sourcing and other open source Geospatial Intelligence) we can provide world class geospatial intelligence products to the entire customer base. By leveraging the incredible capabilities of both the geospatial and imagery analysts, we can enable them to work more effectively in this new “dynamic geospatial intelligence environment”. The incredible advancement in software applications coupled with the increased demand for rapid generation of geospatial products have allowed or even pushed us to move toward a dynamic geospatial intelligence enterprise solution.”

Lt. Col. Michael Cairns, Commanding Officer Mapping & Charting Establishment, Commandant School of Military, National Defence, Canada

“I would increase bandwidth and storage capacity so that data could be seamlessly shared and distributed.”

Col Mark Burrows, Head of JAGO, UK MOD

“Being somewhat greedy I would be after 2 changes: – The first would be to improve interoperability, storage and access and this includes the management of data – and more human beings are needed for this. – Second, based on COIN and current ‘ops amongst the people, I would like to resource the lowest Tactical level (companies and platoons) with GIS sensors, so as to empower BG Comds & maximise ground truth.This would support low level tactical decision making whilst giving a recognised picture up the chain, thus garnering support as required (this assuming the networked ability to share Information with higher HQs/neighbouring units formations). It is at the Lowest Tactical level that people are influenced for the good or the bad of the overall campaign. Part of our problem is that we have been slow to acknowledge AFG is a COIN campaign and our resourcing is still stuck in a conventional mindset with control of assets and decision action cycle set too high.”

Captain Kjetil Utne, Director, Norwegian Military Geographic Service

“A common service oriented network solution, where information and services might be published and made available across all domains, would certainly be appreciated. However, there are many factors, related to releasability, intellectual property rights, costs etc. that the wand then will have to cut through…”

Colonel John Fitzgerald, Senior Staff Officer Intelligence Policy, (Geospatial/ Imagery/ JISR), International Military Staff, HQ NATO

“Whilst continuing to demand excellence in the geospatial and imagery sciences, and providing robust services for C2 and other functions, I would focus on requirements, processes and support to customers, especially through better engaging intelligence collection management.”

Lt. Col. Babis Paraschou, Chief Geospatial Officer, European Union Force

“I would like to change the way that high-rank military decision makers think of geoint; Geoint products need special equipment and special trained people. Sometimes the answer to a simple question of “what will happen if we open or destroy a port?” needs a very specialised person, often more than a usual well-trained Geoint person. I ‘d like every brigadier general and above to be trained by magic in the complex theory of Geoint, intelligence and technical-scientific work.”

Gp Capt Harry Kemsley RAF, Dep Hd DPD, Cap Sponsor ISTAR, UK MOD

“Adherence to agreed standards.”

Brig. General (ret) Amnon Sofrin, Head of The Intelligence Directorate, Israeli Intelligence Service (ISIS)

“If I could change one thing, I would like to make it possible that the relevant Geo – Information could be given to the Junior Commanders in the battlefield (Platoon Leaders) , in order to reduce the ambiguity and the uncertainty in this Area of Operations.”

Brig. Gen. Schmidt-Bleker, Director, Bundeswehr Geoinformation Office (BGIO), Germany

“I wish we had a much broader approach throughout NATO than just the stove-piped support to one customer such as the intelligence community.”

For more information:
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To find out more and to read full interviews visit the DGI 2011 website: