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					                                                             Douglas G. Armstrong is a freelance writer living in Germany
                                                             who specialises in military related articles. He can be reached at
                                                                                                        dgarmstrong@ginko.de




HANG ON A MINUTE…
ONE HAS TO BE CAUTIOUS WHEN WRITING ABOUT GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION
SYSTEMS (GIS) AND COMMERCIAL SATELLITE IMAGERY (CSI) APPLICATION IN THE DEFENSE
DOMAIN TODAY.

Certainly, since the time of the Persian Gulf War,
the use of digital geospatial data has increased
immeasurably – that does not mean however
that it is so ubiquitous that it is effectively
integrating with all the emerging “net-centric”
architectures supporting military operations
that seem to be popping up on a weekly basis.
The author encounters considerable risk in
overstating capabilities and leading readers to
believe that governments, because of their
seemingly unlimited resources, have been
spending vast sums on the technologies and
that large, robust and accurate repositories of
map and imagery data are well in-place and
humming along quite nicely with no significant
problems or issues. This is not the case.
     The countless ads in the trade journals
notwithstanding, fielding practical (and interop-
erable) geospatial information processing            Government’s manufacture of maps and                  farther away for NATO though.
capabilities is a daunting and expensive             geospatial products. Today, the National                    To its credit, the NGA is collaborating with
undertaking. It will take many years to reach a      Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is the           NATO member countries to share the workload
state where all operational users have even          largest consumer of commercially available            and some of the costs. As always however, it all
baseline data instantly accessible to them for       satellite imagery and in late January 2006            comes down to money and genuine commit-
any point on the Earth, let alone to have            awarded $60 million to the American operators         ment to the tasks at hand. The NATO militaries
accurate geo-referenced data. Why? – Because         of the QuickBird-2, IKONOS, and OrbVIEW-3             have significant difficulties in this regard. That is
the world is a big place and there is a lot going    satellites.                                           not to say that the respective geospatial
on in different places. Governments have to               Sixty-million dollars sounds like a lot of       agencies, in particular in France, Great Britain
make difficult choices and in reality, resources     money to be spending on imagery source data           and Germany, are not aggressively pursuing
are limited. There are also technical challenges     for building geospatial information databases.        solutions. All three of these governments
to overcome, challenges that in many cases are       The $60 million is only for this year! The NGA’s      continue to invest in imaging satellites and in
real show-stoppers.                                  contract ceiling for acquiring commercial data        geospatial production facilities. It’s just that the
     In the United States Government (USG) a         is a whopping $500 million and that still won’t       goal of creating a seamless, interoperable,
series of documents, both military and public,       be enough to bring timely, accurate and useful        networked data environment that will not only
and dating back to 1991 have steered the             data to a soldier’s PDA or to a Command and           span broad geographic areas but also contain
evolution of CSI and subsequently GIS technol-       Control Center anytime soon. That is unless the       up-to-date information about selected points
ogy. Military Mission Needs Statements (MNS)         soldier or center is in Iraq.                         is, at best, challenging and, at worst, downright
crafted in 1991 and 1992 declared the military            Because resources are limited, the NGA, as       scary.
interest in acquisition and use of CSI. In 1994,     the Department of Defense Functional                        One day, the reality will look like the
then President Clinton, issued Presidential          Manager for geospatial intelligence (GEOINT)          defense contractor’s ads and Hollywood’s
Decision Directive-23 (PDD-23) which infused         has to prioritize the work-flow. There’s Iraq,        movies like Enemy of the State (where the use
new life into the flailing American commercial       Afghanistan, and the rest of the world. The NGA       of geospatial data was the central special
satellite industry, effectively directing all        also has to consider the production costs –           effect), but for now, governments, their
agencies of the USG to support the companies         getting the finished product into GIS environ-        militaries and their industry partners will have
providing the imagery data. That directive has       ments where it can be used. This area is fraught      to just keep chipping away at the project, one
recently been superseded and amplified by            with technical hurdles, many of which have to         pixel and one vector at a time. If this process is
National Security Presidential Directive-27          do with standards and interfaces in the               to move any faster, it’s going to require new
(NSPD-27), signed by President G.W. Bush in          information technology domain. Although a             policies on the part of government, better
April 2003. The new NSPD specifically directs        substantial effort is underway to fund acquisi-       funding on the part of the defense establish-
that commercial satellite imagery be used as         tion of source data and to support production,        ment and greater efficiencies on the part of
the first choice for source data in the              the end-state is a long, long way off. It’s a lot     industry.



24                                                                                                         April 2006 | GEOconnexion International Magazine

				
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