The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has long been the agency for analysis of imagery and maps within the intelligence community (IC), however, agency officials believe that a key part of that mission is the analysis of the written word.
NGA delved into a year-long federally funded study of natural language processing (NLP) to significantly raise awareness of the potential time savings and intelligence gains made possible through greater access to text analytics software.
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, NGA is in the business of countless words,” Monica Lipscomb, NLP program manager at NGA, said in a statement. “Map reading, legend generation, and image notation are obvious examples.”
The report found that NGA’s workforce spends approximately 80 percent of their average workflow reading or generating text whether in conducting research, reviewing documents, tipping imagery, or generating reports. NLP enables the automated sifting, sorting, translating, comprehending, and sensemaking of billions of words.
In addition to speeding the analytic workflow, NLP has applicability to workflows involving security, finance, policy, records management, and safety of navigation alerts, Lipscomb explained.
Earlier this year, NGA launched the Source Maritime Automated Processing System (SMAPS) – which is driven by NLP and basic machine learning – and reportedly cut the time needed to process incoming incident messages and generate alerts in half.
However, “many NGA employees know that NLP resources are available, but they have difficulty knowing where to find them or how to orient them towards NGA topics of interest,” Lipscomb said.
Moving forward, NGA wants to facilitate mission advancement in other agency workflows like those achieved through SMAPS. NGA also plans to further discussions with the greater IC and generate an enterprise-wide community of interest in NLP resources.