The non-confidential value of commercial open source and geospatial information sharing


Two years ago, reports surfaced that the Chinese Communist Party was holding hundreds of thousands of Chinese Muslim Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in so-called “re-education” camps. The Chinese authorities initially denied the existence of these camps until human rights organizations and media sources provided indisputable evidence of their existence.

Detecting human rights violations like this would be nearly impossible without access to commercial geospatial information (GEOINT) provided by Satellite images Created a visual guide to the campsites. In addition to camp discovery, GEOINT also provided the ability to Path developments In camps by comparing photos taken over time.

Commercial GEOINT is unclassified and in the public domain. Information is available to commercial customers, the public, and NGOs. It is available for Federal government To buy.

Space Information Services use large groups of small satellites with independent image processing that, when combined, revolutionize GEOINT’s capabilities. Thus, commercial GEOINT will play an increasingly integral role in the near future, as space launch services continue to evolve. More cost effective And as Artificial intelligence/Machine learningImage processing technology continues to advance.

Here’s why: First, A picture is worth a thousand words. Second, GEOINT facilitates in-depth analysis and comparative storytelling when images are grouped together over time. every day, New stories Click on the press to take advantage of this powerful informational tool.

However, if these images were taken by American space assets and analyzed before Intelligence services (IC), the audience is unlikely to see them or reap the benefits of the accompanying analysis. It is also unlikely that departments and agencies not well connected with the ICRC could usefully use these images.

But imagine if an IC has fully exploited, analyzed and merged the information and images not only from confidential sources but also from unclassified sources such as the one it controls. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), The National Center for Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and from commercial GEOINT to produce disaggregated analyzes based in part on publicly available information. The resulting product can be more easily shared with federal departments and agencies, government partners, and possibly even the public. This would also enable more information to be shared with friendly countries beyond the current Five Eyes building for the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

Setting aside the now discussion of integrating unclassified government satellite imagery into intelligence products (and the policies and legal challenges to do so), the US government and the International Investment Commission (IC) have made regular, albeit infrequent, use of some commercial GEOINT. For example, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) had a file GEOINT Business Strategy Since at least 2018. And the Space Force might be interested in making it Better use of GEOINT And Other business partnerships.

Run with this task it would create Chance to Better development And define a portfolio of space forces missions. Being so new, the Space Force – and itself a member of the IC – is uniquely positioned to forge close relationships with NASA and NOAA due to the common difficulties inherent in working in the space field. Although IC members have worked in space for a long time, space power will not be burdened with a legacy of maintaining strict corridors and could have more flexibility in operation than their pure IC counterparts. After all, there is no such thing as a clean slate to inspire innovative solutions to old challenges. We know that the strategic geotechnical competition of the 21st century requires us to do so Investing, innovating and integrating quickly New critical capabilities.

The same logic applies to the space powerhouse that has ties to the commercial space photo industry. Indeed, space power can establish itself as an important interlocutor between industry and government along the lines of role US Coast Guard.

The devastating impact of COVID-19 has prompted the government to start making more use of commercial GEOINT. Specifically, it reinforced the NGA Reliance on non-confidential data For projects because working remotely kept many intelligence professionals at home. However, there are risks in using commercially available imagery because foreign adversaries could theoretically target, confuse, dazzle and even destroy these capabilities more easily. Moreover, trade capabilities could provide foreign adversaries with the same data, which would threaten the United States The competitive photo advantage. Therefore, commercial GEOINT should be seen as a power multiplier and not a substitute for existing government systems.

But even with risks, increased commercial GEOINT use has important advantages. Easier and faster access to image data can better equip policymakers to meet security challenges that go beyond traditional defense tasks, such as Climate change; Illegal, unreported fishing; Emergency and disaster response; Exodus; And Alleviate the epidemic. Commercial GEOINT can also allow information to be more easily shared with states and non-defense entities such as federal law enforcement and, where appropriate, industry, the public, and foreign allies.

The amalgamation of GEOINT commercial imagery with high-quality, open-source information would allow federal analysts to produce an IC-style open source intelligence (OSINT) analysis of all sources. In a fast-paced world characterized by fast decision-making, supported by whom Data processing boom Forthcoming Commercial space boom, Such analysis can be a cost-saving game-changer.

Developing informational products using commercial GEOINT can also help prevent unintended disclosure of our sensitive space resources and capabilities when US leaders want to acknowledge specific global events. For example, it was the former President TrumpA tweet about an Iranian missile launch failure used a file GEOINT commercial image Instead of one of prof mentioned NGA Intelligent slide, a supposed spy satellite that provided images for the slide It was not recognized Made by amateur space enthusiasts. While it is unlikely that other presidents would feel compelled to publish similar information that could shed light on sources and methods of intelligence, in an ideal world, when briefing senior decision makers, the ICRC would provide a commercially derived GEOINT image and non-confidential analysis if the briefing the recipient finds Value in sharing it with foreign partners or the public.

After 9/11, he was there Discussion About Smash the proverbial wall Between intelligence and law enforcement. There was mixed success in doing so, and some obvious pitfalls along the way, including with January 6 Capitol Riots. But in the end, Closer integration The exchange of information contributed to maintaining the security of the Americans. IC must look at how best to break this wall to fully embrace the value provided by both commercial GEOINT and OSINT. Doing so provides the means to meet the needs of the new stakeholders, at the unclassified level. It would also help the United States to nurture international relations and could be Boost confidence to me The booming space infrastructure industry.

Of course, this means prioritizing scarce human capital over investment sharing that is attracted in many competing directions. But other than the cost of purchasing a commercial GEOINT, with only a small investment in a few prime agencies – especially as far as the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning The United States will be better placed to meet the full range of its security challenges and those of its allies and partners around the world.

The opinions presented here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the policy or position of the United States government.

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