GEOINTeraction Tuesday Features DHS CTO Dan Cotter

GEOINTeraction Tuesday Features DHS CTO Dan Cotter

March 15, 2012

The second GEOINTeraction Tuesday of 2012 featured Dan Cotter, Chief Technology Officer with DHS. Around 50 attendees gathered to hear Cotter’s perspective on the department’s Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN), DHS Common Operational Picture (COP), and GeoCONOPS effort.

The information sharing mission of DHS can informally be summarized as being “to get all the data, all the time, to any authorized user, on an authorized device, at an affordable cost,” Cotter said.

Cotter described the goal of the DHS Geospatial Management Office (GMO) as providing a core of centralized services and data stores. He added that DHS is trying to expand its thinking on spatial data beyond maps. “We’re not just making a map,” he said. “We want to understand something that’s going on.”

The DHS geospatial program has about 20 investments, Cotter said, including the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and FEMA, the department’s largest user of geospatial data. FEMA splits its use of geospatial data between disaster management, and mitigation and civil mapping uses, such as the National Flood Insurance Program.

In 2011, the White House issued Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness (PPD-8). PPD-8 is, “Aimed at “strengthening the security and resilience” of the U.S. through “systematic preparation for the threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation.” FEMA is the lead Agency for overseeing PPD-8 implementation.

The five Mission Areas under PPD-8 are, Prevent, Protect, Mitigate, Respond, Recover. “FEMA has established geospatial to be to be one of the capabilities that is required for each Mission Area. The Federal Interagency GeoCONOPS will serve as the initial foundation for describing geospatial requirements,” Cotter said. Cotter noted the importance of this decision by FEMA, “for the first time there will be a single process connected directly to United States Government Policy to coordinate the geospatial requirements for the homeland security mission.”

Cotter also spoke to the significance of identity management when it comes to developing geospatial infrastructure. “Does anyone here have only one PIN and password?” he asked the audience, which replied with a resounding, “No.” Cotter said that DHS is working with the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment (PM-ISE) striving to rationalize identity management issues within the sensitive but unclassified (SBU) world. A HSIN ID can be used to now access the DHS geospatial information infrastructure.

Cotter noted there are many stakeholders in homeland security mission. These range from activities of the National System for Geospatial Intelligence (NSG) under the leadership of NGA to completely unclassified civil missions overseen in part by the Federal Geographic Data Committee. In between are SBU missions for law enforcement and other activities. These are very diverse groups. “I am not aware of any governance that unifies these communities on how best to coordinate a delivery architecture to support the homeland security mission,” he said.

As for future trends, Cotter said he foresees the federal government looking to get out of the infrastructure business, and mused over the idea of volunteered geographic information, or VGI, and “citizens as sensors.” He also predicted increased use of RFID, as well as the rise of predictive analytics and context-based services. The final challenge, Cotter added, is how the federal government will strive to keep up with rapidly changing commercial technologies.


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