NGA CIO plans big changes for cloud, cybersecurity and machine learning in 2022

The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency is undertaking several major technological changes in cloud, cybersecurity and machine learning this year, as it continues to seek ways to capitalize on an “explosion” in commercial products and services, according to the news director of the agency.

NGA “rotates at every level, from system to system, sensor to sensor, to an enterprise operating system and to sensor-independent data ingestion, storage and delivery,” said Mark Andress, Chief Information Officer of NGA, at an event hosted on January 6 by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.

A “big event” for the agency this year is the rollout of a new “common operating environment” providing a “service-centric platform” for GEOINT access, according to Andress.

He said that NGA will also move workloads this year from the “C2S” cloud program to the intelligence community’s new “C2E” cloud contract. The CIA awarded the C2E in November 2020 to Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle. The C2S contract, awarded in 2013, was exclusive to Amazon.

“This presents huge opportunities,” said Andress of the switch to C2E.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning remain top priorities for NGA. The agency released a new data strategy last year. Andress said a key priority for his office is to “put in place the IT infrastructure to support this integration of AI and ML.”

NGA has so far been successful in embracing natural language processing, which has allowed the agency “to eliminate countless hours of work” by automating the processing and delivery of GEOINT, according to Andress.

But another major NGA initiative is using computer vision to analyze imagery of objects of interest, lifestyles and other information.

“That big, short-term goal is to take those, I’m not going to say ‘mundane’ because they require skill, but to transfer those foundational skills to the machine,” Andress said. “And then let the analyst move on to, what does that mean?” What does it mean that this movement is happening? “

The agency is also looking to continue to integrate business products and data into its workflows. The NGA’s new geospatial intelligence business strategy prompts agencies to view business sources as the primary sources of intelligence. It’s a change for agencies that have traditionally looked first at government capabilities, such as images taken by top-secret spy satellites.

Andress said that NGA seeks to “exploit and manage” the explosion of geospatial intelligence that is happening in the commercial sector.

“We put a lot of emphasis on what we call the Supplier Matrix, and it’s around how we leverage technology to combine the knowledge needed, to meet the right demand, from the right customer to the right. good domain security with the right solution, ”he said.

Andress also said the focus on commercial orchestration goes beyond traditional imagery for a range of analytical products, such as object detection and macroeconomic analysis.

Over the next few months, Andress said the agency will also release an updated version of its software strategy, called the “NGA Software Way.” The document describes how NGA wishes to develop software, both for its internal developers and its industrial partners.

The agency released an early version of the strategy as a request for information last year, and it now incorporates more than 350 pages of industry commentary, according to Andress.

“He’s really focused on two things,” he said. “[One] how we want our software development. Before writing, through development, the first deliverable then operationally through iterations. And then he says, “We’re going to need some common action from you. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a big deal. And these will be the two big drivers this year.

NGA is also in the process of moving to a zero trust cybersecurity model in accordance with the Defense Department’s April 2021 “Zero Trust Reference Architecture”.

Andress said NGA is in “a great starting position” to start embracing zero confidence. He said the agency has put in place a “robust” identity, accreditation and access framework.

“Where we have a lot of work to do, and I know it’s going to take a long time, is really to build that trustless relationship between an individual and a piece of data,” he continued. “And how do you adapt that at the corporate level? Do not trust anyone for any information, unless that connection has been validated. So that’s where we focus the most in the short term. “