Since its announcement in October 2020, the Moonshot Lab has become a focal point for the coming wave of GEOINT software development. In Friday’s Government Hub panel, NGA Moonshot: How It All Comes Together, several leaders involved in the Moonshot effort were on hand to promote capabilities, management, and support for the mission.
USGIF CEO Ronda Schrenk moderated the panel, welcoming NGA leaders Mark Andress, Chief Information Officer; Phil Chudoba, Associate Director of Capabilities; and Brian Lessenberry, Senior Advisor for Mission Management.
Chudoba kicked off the discussion by setting the stage for mission parameters toward which they are working. “Within the capabilities portfolio, we’re working hard within the acquisition process—sometimes within revolutionary processes like accelerators—to develop and deliver the technology that’s going to help us realize some of these very difficult challenges,” he said. “From a capabilities perspective, I’ve deliberately placed heavy focus on sensor-to-shooter technology. The toughest part is compressing processes that sometimes take hundreds of minutes down to single-digit minutes to meet the needs of our warfighters. So, we take this very seriously.”
Lessenberry described how the leaders at the highest level have set out goals for the entire GEOINT community. “You might have heard Vice Admiral Sharp, PDDNI Dixon, or Director Scolese speak of this being an inflection point for our community, for our nation, and for our world. Each of the three directors spoke in some depth about the great strategic competition in which we are now engaged, which is characterized by extraordinary complexity as we are increasingly challenged in multiple operational domains. Competition is defined by vast geographic scale, hovering and stretching across the entire surface of the Earth and increasingly into the deeper reaches of space. And it’s a competition defined by immense speed, the speed with which we must make detections, observations, and decisions—all in the blink of a virtual eye.”
As the conversation turned toward working with industry partners outside of government, each panelist was quick to praise the cooperation and integration of private industry as key players in their mission.
In response to a question about testing commercial software products, Andress described a two-track testing process. “We take the integrity of software very seriously. We have multiple phases through which a software system is tested and evaluated. We look at the supply chain of the code. We have multiple scans on the code. And then, we move it into a test environment where testers and users look at the efficiency and effectiveness of that code. And that is for code that is going to move into production. But we also have multiple environments and opportunities to let code run and be tested against other environments that haven’t had to go through that scrutiny. If it’s coming in the gate, it’s coming in clean, and it’ll be reviewed heavily.”
Schrenk concluded the questioning by asking each leader to describe their vision for the tech environment in the year 2030. Lessenberry expressed his pragmatic desire for greater understanding of the “strategic environment…[our] competition, the real-world requirements, and then identifying and aligning technological capabilities to solve those challenges.”
Andress, on the other hand, is looking toward frictionless delivery of intel. “We want that interaction with the data and the machine to be flowing seamlessly out of our systems into that cockpit if needed, in a way that someone doesn’t have to engineer a connection. They would simply put in almost a ‘service now’ ticket that goes through our authentication system and authorization system, and data is flowing.”
Chudoba wrapped it up with his vision of “resilient, redundant communications that span the globe. I want depth that adversaries can’t take away from us or interdict,” he said. “I want to see an operations center that has active views of every area that the President and the warfighters are interested in. I want to see an RSS feed like a stock ticker of GEOINT detections that is continuously flowing in each of those battle spaces for decision-makers to pick and choose those detections that are important to them and to make decisions on what they want to do.”
“I want everything to be live,” continued Chudoba. “And I want it to be something that we enjoy on the commercial side, frankly; whether it’s content delivery networks where we’ve got data provision far forward, so we’re taking care of latency, or whether it’s spaceborne, airborne, and terrestrial resiliency, so if one of those things goes out, we can always default to one of the others.”