TAMPA, Fla. — In the wars of recent years, US Special Operations Command saw the results of a dizzying investment in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) rushed into the field, leaving the command — in today's leaner times — to make sense of its inventory and focus.
"We're trying to make the case that this is not a special operations problem, it is a DoD-wide problem," Col. Matt Atkins, of Special Operations Command's intelligence directorate, said at a National Defense Industrial Association conference here on Wednesday.
"Fortunately we have acknowledgement at the highest levels of government that yeah, moving sensor data around the battlefield to folks who need to exploit it is something DoD needs to get its arms around," he said.
"The reality is the environments we operate in are the ones found all over the world, particularly the crappiest places, and those are the ones that will continue to present the biggest technical challenges," he said.
"A lot of these countries know how to fly the ScanEagles and things they buy, but they don't necessarily know how to use them," Atkins said. "There's a demand for us to teach them how to control it, how to process the information and how to turn that information into intelligence."
Exploring small or micro satellites and their ability to transmit data, Atkins and his team have been visiting Silicon Valley in recent months. Less expensive commercial satellites might fill the gap for traditional intelligence sensors competing for access to satellites, he said.
"We look forward to some significant partnerships based on that," Atkins said.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.