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News | Oct. 7, 2021

NRO Director announces new commercial acquisition opportunity at GEOINT Symposium

By Staff

The annual United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) symposium kicked off Tuesday, Oct. 5 in St. Louis, Mo. The four-day event is the largest annual gathering of GEOINT professionals across the United States. This year’s theme is Discovery and Connections, and will focus on “examining the exponential increase of geospatial data sources, advanced analytic capabilities, new innovative solutions, interoperability, and much more.”

NRO’s director, Dr. Chris Scolese, opened day two of the symposium with a keynote address before the large crowd of government, academia, and commercial partners. Dr. Scolese was introduced by Retired Lieutenant General Mary A. Legere, the former Senior Intelligence Officer for the U.S. Army and the current Managing Director at Accenture Federal Services. Dr. Scolese began his keynote by noting the vibrant and congested arena space has become, adding, “We no longer have the luxury of treating our advantage in space as a given.”

Dr. Scolese went on to discuss two areas that would give the NRO an advantage in space: innovation and commercial capabilities. Dr. Scolese discussed how the NRO has innovated since it began in 1961 and the steps needed to continue to innovate to ensure the NRO stays technologically ahead of adversaries and delivers capabilities faster than its competitors. “We need to develop systems and architectures that are resilient to interference or attack,” he said. “We need to be more nimble. And we need to be more agile.”

He stated that the NRO is employing new technologies that to enable new ways of observing that defeat denial and deception techniques. NRO is also employing artificial-intelligence and onboard processing to deliver the information needed directly to the front faster. Dr.Scolese also highlighted that the NRO is testing and deploying new satellite constellations and integrating commercial tools, products, and data streams into the NRO’s current architecture to increase capabilities and coverage, reduce cost, and allow the NRO to focus on critical next generation technology.

Turning to people, Dr. Scolese mentioned the importance of the NRO’s partners and workforce in reaching its goals, to include two new programs on-orbit that are the direct result of collaboration. These programs were developed using a combination of commercial components and processes, and government-sponsored capabilities and are a vital to NRO’s diverse architecture. Dr. Scolese emphasized the importance of commercial partnerships and highlighted multiple commercial contracts awarded by NRO’s Commercial Systems Program Office has since its inception about three years ago.

Dr. Scolese’s keynote culminated with the announcement of the NRO’s new Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), which is a flexible approach to an acquisition process that will allow the NRO to evaluate, leverage, and integrate new and emerging phenomenologies like radar, hyperspectral, and RF sensing as they become available. He also announced that the NRO is working to release the framework for the first focus area of the BAA, commercial radar. This new acquisition opportunity will be open to companies across industry, to include foreign-owned U.S. companies.

After the keynote, Dr. Scolese took questions from the audience, moderated by former director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and current Chair of the Intelligence National Security Alliance Board of Directors Letitia Long. The audience was encouraged to stop by the NRO’s booth to speak with CSPO following the Q&A. The NRO will also be giving a presentation on its commercial programs of today and tomorrow later in the afternoon.

Read Dr. Scolese’s full remarks as prepared here and read the official BAA press release here.

To learn more about USGIF and GEOINT Symposium, visit their site at https://usgif.org/.