5 Steps to Make Data a Strategic Asset for Geospatial Intelligence

In 2021, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) published its new data strategy, which seeks to improve how data is developed, managed, accessed, and shared to maintain an advantage in geospatial intelligence. In its strategy, the organization pinpoints goals and action plans that the NGA, the Department of Defense (DoD)/Intelligence Community (IC), and other partners should take in order to achieve data innovation while reducing security risks and staying ahead of foreign competition in the geospatial intelligence arena.

To maintain a competitive advantage, the strategy seeks to close gaps between existing data governance structures and those of the future by advancing key developments in:

  • Data accessibility
  • Data reusability
  • Cross-domain efficiencies
  • Next-generation GEOINT

NGA’s data strategy also highlights the fact that data must be viewed as a strategic asset, as it is crucial to delivering useful intelligence to DoD and IC decision makers, data teams, and the warfighter.

Tackling Data Overload to Support the Warfighter

Currently, the DoD and IC depend on NGA to process and analyze satellite imagery, essentially turning sensor data into viable intelligence. To that end, one focus of NGA’s data strategy is to meet the needs of the DoD as it develops its Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) program.

DoD officials have publicly stated that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are priorities for the agency, emphasizing that automating certain aspects of data analysts’ jobs will free them up to more effectively handle the immense amounts of data received from satellite imagery and other geospatial technology. Allowing analysts to focus on the more difficult aspects of data management will allow them to be able to quickly provide more strategic and precise recommendations to the warfighter.

However, as the DoD faces challenges surrounding data overload, many senior intelligence officials are faced with a critical question: How should this infinite stream of geospatial data be managed effectively?

Five Steps to Data Management Success

To meet its mission and enable the warfighter on the battlefield, NGA has outlined four primary goals in its data strategy to achieve its preferred outcomes:

  1. Ensure data is easily found, easily accessed, and responsibly shared at the right time with those who need it
  2. Improve the ability to easily reuse data assets when needed
  3. Provide sufficient data access for agency employees and customers while promoting a data culture
  4. Deploy AI and ML to enhance production capacity

To accelerate these data management goals, there are five steps the NGA should take to stay ahead of foreign competition and enhance its data capabilities for the warfighter and internal data teams:

1. Scale policy management

Managing access and privacy controls requires lots of manual effort by intelligence and data teams, who are already strapped for time. By automating sensitive data discovery and classification, data teams can save time and eliminate risk of manual errors.

2. Increase agility across data teams

Increasing agility across data teams working with geospatial data empowers a wide range of stakeholders to manage data policy enforcement without the need for specialized data engineering resources.

3. Deploy data management technology that easily proves compliant data use

Achieving data compliance must be a priority when handling geospatial data. Data teams should apply flexible tagging for all rules and regulations by creating custom tags for Agency-specific classification, and also map tags to data security compliance laws and regulations.

4. Apply AI/ML and data access control across NGA and partner infrastructure

NGA leadership has stated publicly that AI and ML are primary mission focus areas, with automation at the forefront so data analysts can address the most complex challenges. NGA’s investment in cloud compute technology to advance this goal should be augmented with software that allows for secure data access and data sharing across the board. Immuta’s native integrations can help NGA and its partners advance its AI and ML goals faster and more securely by dynamically protecting and anonymizing data.

5. Deploy scalable, attribute-based access control (ABAC) across all geospatial data assets

Attribute-based access control provides tremendous benefits when it comes to managing data assets and should be a key focus for NGA and other agencies looking to stay ahead of the competition in geospatial intelligence. Particularly, Immuta’s ABAC uses dynamic user attributes, such as geography, time and date, clearance level, and purpose, that are represented as policy variables to make automated, proactive, and context-aware decisions at query time. This means that a single Immuta ABAC policy can replace over 100 roles and policy definitions, saving time and reducing security risks for agencies concerned about data sharing.

Managing and controlling data access from a myriad of geospatial data sources can be challenging but not impossible. By partnering with a team like Immuta, the leader in data access and security, NGA and its DoD and IC partners can accelerate their data strategies and help achieve their data management goals – all while supporting the warfighter and achieving mission success. Find out more in Immuta for Public Sector or by connecting with our team.

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