I was doing some research for a writing project and came upon this description of one of the Synergy Strike Force operations buried in a post about the fighting in Marjah. My friends Dave Warner and Baba Ken were a near constant presence at the Taj over the years I was there and for a few after I moved to the Helmand. They did a metric ton of really cool operations and sponsored some of the most interesting folks to ever visit the Taj; Jenn Gold, Rachel Robb, Mullah Todd Huffman and Kate Ludicrum come immediately to mind. I extracted this from the post and am putting it up again because what these folks accomplished (often on their own dime) was remarkable.
Dr. Dave Warner from the Synergy Strike Force, which is loosely affiliated with the San Diego – Jalalabad Sister City foundation, itself loosely affiliated with the La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary Club (I am not making this up) has been working the sharing issue with the National Geospacial Agency (NGA) for the past four years. The goal was access for a collation of Stability Operations partners to NGA imagery data. The problem turned out to be not classification but intellectual property rights. The commercial imagery provider had a “next view” licensing agreement with NGA which restricted distribution of the product to official users only. Defining “official users” is always a very complicated endeavor for any U S Government (USG) agency. Here is the thing about large bureaucracies – they are run by motivated people and motivated people easily recognize impediments to mission accomplishment. The NGA is staffed by professionals who take their jobs seriously, and Dr. Dave’s efforts had illustrated that their procedures were adversely affecting their mission of supporting America’s efforts in Afghanistan. The NGA management started to chip away at the licensing agreement because they had already paid a king’s ransom for the data and knew they should be able to distribute it as they saw fit.
NGA now has a site called DigitalGlobe RDOG Phase II which ISAF coalition implementation partners can access; write to them here to request imagery assistance. These products are provided to qualified agencies free of charge.
This is White Intelligence which has a limited but useful role in Stability Ops. Check out the results of a poorly designed retaining wall/canal intake project on the Kunar River which has caused serious farm land erosion in the Bishud District of Nangarhar Province.
It is good to see success stories from large USG agencies like the National Geospacial Agency who pushed the envelope to provide critical support without spending an extra dime of taxpayer money. That is the kind of mission focused production us taxpayers love to see. The products NGA provides can clearly provide a lot of help in remote or contested areas.