In a contribution to the Department of Defense’s fight against West Africa’s Ebola virus disease outbreak, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has launched its first public website of unclassified geospatial intelligence data.
NGA’s mission in support of national security is to visually depict and assess situations on the ground using satellite imagery and other geographically referenced information.
The public website, covering the West African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak, is a new venture for the necessarily secretive intelligence organization. NGA has, however, provided geographical intelligence to first responders during most major natural disasters.
“My group regularly supports humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, as well as special security events that are driven by the FBI,” Timothy J. Peplaw, director of the NGA Readiness, Response and Recovery Office, told DoD News during a recent interview.
“NGA is not necessarily in the business of providing unclassified data,” he added, “but my customer set is very open, so my group is the one exception where we have to provide unclassified data and products to people who support these disasters.”
NGA’s open website will provide useful, critical information such as helicopter landing zones, transportation data and locations of medical treatment facilities.
“…We spread ourselves globally,” Peplaw said. “Our expertise is really in natural disasters and special security events, but now all of a sudden we're involved in a health issue, so I think [the direction] is only limited by the imagination.
“We can do so much with our data,” he continued, “and pushing [it] out there as a service I think really gets it into a different domain. … It's hard to say really where this is going to go in another five years, but it certainly isn't going away.”
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