In a video message presented at the ceremony Friday, President Barack Obama said of Cardillo: “He’s smart; he’s unflappable. He’s earned my complete confidence as he prepares to lead this agency forward.”
Increasing recognition of the agency’s growing role in the intelligence world was on full display Friday. Letitia Long, the first woman to head a major intelligence agency, officially retired after four years at the helm of NGA and more than 36 years total in the intelligence community.
Long is widely credited for leading a transformation of NGA’s capabilities, putting more sophisticated GEOINT into the hands of more customers—members of the military, diplomats, and decision-makers alike.
“Together, we have transformed NGA from a static product producer”—think basic maps and satellite images—“into a provider of dynamic content, analysis, and services,” she said during the ceremony.
Increasingly, NGA “is the IC’s backbone for global coverage,” said Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers during the leadership changeover event.Intelligence officials hailed the critical role of geospatial intelligence during the successful raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound in 2011. And in every major world crisis of recent years since, NGA intelligence-gathering has played a key role, officials say.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who also spoke at the ceremony, has hinted before about NGA’s burgeoning role in the intelligence firmament—especially in the wake of damaging revelations about NSA’s online surveillance activities.
“GEOINT has a great advantage in our current environment because it’s the most transparent of the collection disciplines,” Clapper said last spring at the GEOINT Symposium in Tampa, Florida.
In part that’s because of the agency’s unclassified work in civil disaster relief efforts, including after the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan in 2011 and following Hurricane Sandy’s destructive landfall in the Northeast in 2012.
But the agency’s growing profile isn’t only happenstance.
NGA has taken a lead role in the broader intelligence community’s technology-integration plan—known as ICITE—and in spearheading activity-based intelligence, the agency’s bid to harness the power of big data.
ICITE, the Intelligence Community Integrated Technology Enterprise, aims to deliver a common IT framework to be used across the 17 intelligence agencies and is “the technological linchpin of intelligence integration,” according to Vickers.
NGA has partnered with the Defense Intelligence Agency to build a common desktop environment across the IC.
“ICITE, I’ll say simply, clears the decks, corrects the plumbing and enables all of us to bring that integrated intelligence together in one place,” Cardillo told reporters.
For now, the project is mostly about driving intelligence operations toward greater efficiency. But the end goal is something more ambitious.