NGA opens doors to GEOINT app store

Following the lead of other agencies, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is making it easier to download apps.

Leveraging mobile devices to literally put the "power of GEOINT" in the hands of warfighters is the vision of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The agency's move to embrace mobility is most visible in the creation of the GEOINT App Store, loosely modeled after commercial storefronts that provide downloadable apps for smartphones and tablets in the three security domains — unclassified, secret and top secret.

"The idea of an end user being able to download an app that they need right now is critical," said Robert Zitz, senior vice president and chief systems architect for the National Security Sector at Leidos, the company formed after the split of SAIC in September 2013. "It's a great example of using and building upon commercial technologies and approaches.”

To date, more than 270 apps are available to the intelligence community through the online platform. According to the 2013-2017 NGA Strategy report, "Recognizing that GEOINT data, products, services, and knowledge are most relevant when the information is easily accessible, NGA is committed to making its content discoverable, accessible and usable in multiple security domains." 

By 2017, the agency wants to empower the GEOINT community through "greatly improved access to varied content and applications," allowing users to "create and consume GEOINT content anytime on the device of their choice." That approach mirrors similar efforts across DOD.

Mark Riccio, director of future experience for NGA's Xperience Directorate, formerly the agency's Online GEOINT Services Directorate, acknowledged that previously NGA did not necessarily support the provision of mobile type apps. "We realize now that with the speed at which information is made available and the way that consumers want to use that kind of data, that the self-service model is really the driving force to get information in the hands of those that need it in a timely fashion,” he said.

Some duplication is inevitable, observers said. The app store "is another revolutionary step that I'm impressed with, but I have some concerns that they are going to have too many apps that do the same thing. That's going to be a challenge for the agency and others to make sure they have the right vetting process," noted Scott Simmons, CACI’s executive director of geospatial solutions.