In fields Afar, NGA product may be warfighters' only friend.
Picture this: a small Army unit plans an operation in the embattled Tall 'Afar area of Iraq, the site of historic clashes between coalition forces and insurgents. These young Soldiers are alone, cut off from their comrades and from modern comforts and technology--but they are armed with a laptop loaded with data about the countryside around them. They are using an NGA product called Geospatial Intelligence for Operations Support and the Battlefield, or GIB, a handful of DVDs containing an array of imagery and geospatial products.
The Soldiers are grateful for GIB's simplicity: A geospatial information system (GIS) bundled with the product allows them to manipulate the various "layers" of data to create their own customized, fused view without requiring any GIS expertise. They simply need to know how to navigate in a Web browser environment. In fact, within one hour of receiving GIB from an NGA technical representative, the Soldiers have taken it on patrol and are using it to better visualize and understand their surroundings. This is a true story.
Wealth of Data, Ease of Use
GIB provides an amazing variety of data. For example, Controlled Image Base[R] is unclassified digital imagery ideal for providing locational awareness in emergencies. Handheld photographs and movies include 360-degree immersive photos (similar to virtual real-estate tours) and video with embedded coordinates. Imagery obtained through light detection and ranging (LIDAR), a technology similar to radar, is used in line-of-sight and urban warfare planning. The data includes a catalog of standard NGA products, including Compressed Arc Digitized Raster Graphics, Vector Map, Digital Terrain Elevation Data and Digital Aeronautical Flight Information Files, as well as precise targeting data.
The ability to access and analyze imagery and geospatial information in the field is available through an NGA product called Geospatial Intelligence for Operations Support and the Battlefield, or GIB. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps.)
The sheer volume of accessible data is staggering. Using "MrSid" compression technology, NGA is able to load 20 DVDs' worth of data onto one DVD. But GIB's greatest attribute is its ease of use: With point-and-click navigation through interactive displays, even novice users can quickly become experts at GEOINT. Users are able to save the custom views they create and insert them into other applications, including briefings. A mere few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to offer such high-end GIS capabilities in such a compact, user-friendly package.
Meeting the Challenge
What is the origin of GIB? In 2004, then NGA Technical Executive (TX) Roberta Lenzcowski approached a few of the Agency's geosciences experts and challenged them to devise a geospatial data and imagery package to send forward to warfighters. She stipulated that the package be self-contained, presented in a universal format (with no constraining system requirements) and simple to use, as well as free to users. At the time, NGA was able to send out similar packages on an ad hoc basis, but demand was limited, because users had to be experienced with GIS applications and already possess the software.
The staff quickly met the TX's requirements. Within about a year, the original prototype had become a viable product. Now, the Defense Logistics Agency, distributor of NGA products, offers 70 NGA GIB titles with three or four DVDs each, covering individual countries or regions. Recently, during just one month, a team of four analysts compiled six multi-DVD GIBs over countries in the Horn of Africa.
A Widening Circle of Users
Although GIBs were initially developed for warfighters, they are now being used in an ever widening circle of homeland security applications--of course, conforming to strict congressional oversight of domestic imagery. In early March, GIB data was collected for Twentynine Palms, Calif., and delivered to the Marine Corps Air Combat Center there. The Marines are using it to train troops for urban combat and route reconnaissance. NGA provided a New York State GIB to the Army National Guard in Albany late last year, prompting a request for additional homeland security imagery. Even the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department became fans: The Intelligence and National Security Manager in the Homeland Security Bureau declared, "The flexibility of this tool is phenomenal."
NGA's goal with GIB, as with all of our products, is to provide our government and civil partners with the easiest access to the most useful GEOINT information. End of story.
Note: The Geospatial Intelligence for Operations Support and the Battlefield (GIB) program is an example of a collaborative effort across several NGA offices. It is very similar to NGA's current support to Geospatial-Intelligence Contingency Packages, formerly in hardcopy called Noncombatant Evacuation Operations Packages, or NEOPacks. As NGA migrates toward a data-centric environment, the GIB and GCP programs will converge to provide a single service to the National System for Geospatial Intelligence community.
Sabine Pontious is a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor supporting communications for the Source Operations and Management Directorate. She has also performed outreach and communications for the Analysis and Production Directorate and Office of Corporate Relations. Kevin Boyer is an image scientist in the Source Operations and Management Directorate, specializing in custom data sets for geographic information systems. He started government service in 1983 and has also worked as a cartographer and geospatial analyst.
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|Author:||Pontius, Sabine; Boyer, Kevin|
|Publication:||Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2007|
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