On Tuesday afternoon, presenters on the GEOINT 2017 Government Pavilion Stage spoke of earthquakes, floods, and fires. To passersby, the conversation may have sounded apocalyptic. What appeared to be a presentation about Armageddon, however, was actually an inside look at how federal civil agencies use GEOINT to execute their missions.
Titled “Bringing GEOINT to Civilian Agencies,” the 30-minute presentation by Paul M. Young showcased myriad benefits geospatial intelligence offers users as varied as the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Departments of State, Commerce, Energy, Interior, Agriculture, Transportation, and Health and Human Services.
“What some of you may not realize is that federal civilian agencies have access to IC and DoD classified imagery, as well as DoD-funded commercial imagery,” said Young, director of USGS’s National Civil Applications Center.
He added federal civilian agencies have leveraged GEOINT since at least the 1970s, when President Gerald Ford signed a presidential directive granting them access to classified U.S. intelligence.
“What is it that we are using this data for?” Young said. “Well, the primary reason is: We are saving lives.”
Young’s presentation outlined all the ways federal civilian agencies do exactly that. Among the illustrations from his own agency was the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, which a USGS volcanologist predicted with the assistance of satellite imagery, enabling the safe evacuation of 20,000 Americans prior to the eruption. Other examples included wild fires, the spread of which can be stopped with the aid of GEOINT; oil spills, which GEOINT can help remediate; and even invasive species, the spread of which can be contained using GEOINT.
Concluded Young, “The bottom line is … [GEOINT brings] federal civilian folks and the IC and the DoD together; it’s been a huge success story.”