The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has greatly expanded the resources available on its public website about the Ebola crisis in West Africa, according to recent comments by NGA Director Robert Cardillo.
Addressing a recent industry event sponsored by the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, Cardillo noted that the site, which began last October with seven maps, currently has 159, and more than 300 data layers, in comparison with 12 at its launch.
“We had no files available to the public when we started, but now we have 224. Total traffic is now over 800,000,” Cardillo noted.
The comments by the director, who began his tenure last fall, were particularly significant as an indication of his overall approach to the intelligence business, which he defined as meeting the mandates of “content, context, conveyance and consequence.”
In the Ebola case, he explained, the agency had vast amounts of relevant information about the affected regions, but limited means of distributing it to those who needed it. Looking at the options, it was clear that the government’s super-secret network, JWICS, was not the right vehicle.
SIPRNet, while useful in reaching high level military commanders, was still too limited in distribution, he said. Similarly, the sensitive but unclassified NIPRNet could reach U.S. military forces deployed to assist medical workers in the region, but not the civilian agencies and others participating in the response effort. In response, NGA set up its public web site for data access.
Although the agency had to work out agreements on public disclosure with the imagery companies and allied nations that had provided some of the data, it was able within three weeks to get about 30 percent of its stack of information all the way to the web, Cardillo said.
“If we’re going to be relevant in this type of intelligence problem, we have to get much better and be more agile. It’s not always responding to ISIL,” he argued. “We have to operate in this environment—it’s not acceptable to say, let’s just lock up the data.” ♦