NGA Puts Machine Learning to Work to Accelerate Mission and Further Research

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is well known for analyzing images and maps, but text, or written language, is a key part of the process. In a year-long study, members of the NGA workforce reported that reading and generating text occupied up to 80% of their average workflow, whether it was researching , review documents, flip images, or generate reports.

The NGA conducted the natural language processing study through a federally funded research and development center, hoping to raise significant awareness of the potential time and intelligence savings made possible. thanks to better access to text analysis software.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, NGA is in the realm of countless words,” says Monica Lipscomb of NGA Research, who is in charge of the NLP program. “Reading maps, generating legends, and rating images are obvious examples.”

Natural language processing, also known as human language technology, enables automated filtering, sorting, translation, comprehension and meaning creation of billions of words. In addition to accelerating analytics workflow, NLP can be applied to workflows involving security, finance, policy, records management and navigational alert security, according to Lipscomb. The Source Maritime automated processing system, launched in early 2022, is driven by natural language processing and basic machine learning. SMAPS reportedly halved the time it takes to process incoming incident messages and generate alerts.

Lipscomb says the agency wants to facilitate mission advancement in other NGA workflows similar to those done through SMAPS.

“Many NGA employees are aware that NLP resources are available, but struggle with where to find them or how to direct them to NGA topics of interest,” she said.

As a next step, NGA will discuss natural language processing resources available throughout the intelligence community and generate an enterprise-wide community of interest.

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Sherry J. Basler