GAO: DOD and DNI need to update guidelines for commercial satellite imagery

By Shelley K. Mesch / September 8, 2022 at 11:51 AM

The Defense Department and the director of national intelligence's office need to update guidelines and regulations relating to the acquisition of commercial satellite imagery and other data, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

Neither DOD nor the U.S. intelligence community have clarified the roles and responsibilities for these types of acquisitions, according to the report, which was released publicly Wednesday. The National Reconnaissance Office is the central acquirer of imagery, but multiple organizations in DOD have acquired imagery in recent years without guidance addressing organizational roles and responsibilities.

“The potential for unnecessary overlap will only increase as interest in commercial imagery grows across the IC and DOD,” the report states.

Current regulations also aren’t able to quickly integrate emerging commercial capabilities, which GAO said could make the U.S. lose its edge over potential adversaries such as China.

GAO recommends the defense secretary and DNI:

  • Create clear roles and responsibilities for intelligence and DOD groups;
  • Ensure the National Reconnaissance Office assesses various approaches for incorporating and scaling emerging commercial satellite capabilities into operational support contracts in a timely manner;
  • Ensure the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and NRO develop specific performance goals and measures to maximize the use of commercial imagery; and
  • Ensure the NGA develops guidance to establish roles and responsibilities for commercial analytic services with remote sensing data, which would include noting the components responsible for addressing resourcing visibility and for identifying performance goals and measures.