ORLANDO: The United States has boosted into orbit new spy satellites that mark “the most significant change to our overhead architecture in at least three decades,” said the head of military intelligence, Mike Vickers.

Vickers also said these National Reconnaissance Office’s satellites comprise “a truly integrated system of systems for the first time.” Sadly for you, dear reader, the well-known leader of the first war in Afghanistan – the one against the Soviets – did not share any other details. Instead, he delivered his speech and left the conference at speed. Keep reading →

ORLANDO: Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the National Security Agency and Cyber Command, told a standing-room-only crowd at the annual Geoint intelligence conference last year that the NSA and its sister intelligence agencies could save one third or more on their information technology costs by moving to the so-called cloud.

Given that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said last year that the intelligence budget cuts over the next decade would be in the “double digits” — our best information is that the cuts are around $25 bilion over a decade — the pressure is on for Alexander to deliver. Keep reading →

ORLANDO: (Story Delayed Due to Software Problems) A study by the intelligence community raised industrial base “concerns” about the merger between commercial spy satellite companies GeoEye and DigitalGlobe but found no showstoppers.

That’s the word from Letitia Long, director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA). I asked Long today if industrial base issues had been considered by the government as it mulls the merger of America’s only two companies that make and operate spy eyes in the sky. She said Michael Vickers, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for intelligence, and Jim Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, had ordered a study. It raised “concerns” – but no showstoppers – about some of the subcontractors who serve the two companies. Several of them are single-source companies, meaning they are the only ones who provide certain services, software or parts. Keep reading →

ORLANDO: The terrorists who attacked the Benghazi consulate, killing US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and four others, apparently maintained web, cell and radio silence before they acted, giving the US no hint an attack was imminent.

“If people do not emit or discuss their behavior, it’s hard to find out what they are going to do,” Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper said at the huge annual conference of intelligence professionals called Geoint. The U.S., he made clear, did not have tactical warning of the attacks. He noted that there were anti-American protests in 54 countries when the attacks occurred, clearly implying the intelligence community had its hands full that day. Keep reading →

At last year’s Geoint conference, Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper made it clear that a significant amount of the savings needed by the intelligence community over the next five years would come from cutting the budget to buy commercial space imagery. Despite opposition within the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and quiet panic on the part of the two U.S. companies that provide that imagery — GeoEye and DigitalGlobe — Clapper was unrelenting. Quietly, the National Reconnaissance Office expressed satisfaction.

The NRO appeared to have, finally, won the argument over whether the U.S. should buy “exquisite” capabilities — very expensive spy satellites capable of capturing extraordinarily detailed images from space. In this op-ed, Robbin Laird, a member of the Breaking Defense Board of Contributors, argues the Obama administration has made a policy of abandoning public-private partnerships like the ones with GeoEye and DigitalGlobe at the cost of the taxpayer and the soldier in the field. (Watch us this week for more coverage of commercial space during Geoint 2012.) The Editor. Keep reading →

PENTAGON CITY: Hungry for answers on how to make more effective use of the tens of thousands of hours of video gathered by Predators, Global Hawks and other military eyes in the sky, Air Force officials recently visited NASCAR, the car racing people, to learn better and faster ways of mining video data.

“We have a lot of ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) information. We have too much ISR information,” Frank Konieczny, the service’s Chief Technology Officer, told a Monday lunch organized by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA). “We can tag the data, what latitude and longitude it has… but unless someone can quickly go through it on the spot we can’t correlate the data.” Most data is tagged by intelligence analysts or airmen days or weeks after a flight so it can be used for change detection analysis, to build more accurate maps or to add data to existing maps. Keep reading →