One of America’s Spy Agencies Will Test Sentiment Analysis to Help Sniff Out Insider Threats

A U.S. Air Force noncommissioned officer works at her desk at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 17, 2016.

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Randall Moose

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A U.S. Air Force noncommissioned officer works at her desk at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 17, 2016.

If the one-year pilot program is successful, a ‘full and open competition’ could follow to broaden the software’s use inside the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

A spy agency plans to identify people within the organization likely to abuse their access privileges by analyzing pieces of text.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is investing in “sentiment analysis” technology, which generally works by parsing text and categorizing its author’s sentiment as positive, negative or neutral. NGA intends to sole-source an award for a 1-year pilot to WT Government Services, which sells such a system called SCOUT Tool.

The pilot, to be operated by NGA’s Security and Installations Directorate Insider Threat Office, Behavioral Science and Engineering Divisions, is supposed to help the agency identify insider threats, according to a notice on FedBizOpps. WT Government Services is the only vendor who can modify its configuration, the posting said. 

NGA plans to issue the firm fixed-price contract to the small business on Sep. 19. Anyone who works on the project needs to have a top secret security clearance, the posting said. 

If NGA finds that sentiment analysis technology helps it identify insider threats, it intends to “conduct a full and open competition for future support,” the posting said.

This isn’t NGA’s first foray into sentiment analysis. Recently, the agency began gathering information about how the technology could be used to measure how effective its public relations efforts are—including speaker programs and media engagements—in changing public perception about the agency, a FedBizOpps posting earlier this summer said. 

That agency’s Office of Corporate Communication is working on an “aggressive campaign” to raise NGA’s profile especially among recruits, college students and private industry. A contractor on that program would need to create a dashboard measuring the efficacy of NGA’s communication programs and find areas for improvement, the posting said. 

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