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The USACE Army Geospatial Center

Developing geospatial capabilities for many



At its core, the mission of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Army Geospatial Center (AGC) is to provide timely, accurate, and relevant geospatial information, capabilities, and domain expertise for Army Geospatial Enterprise (AGE) implementation in support of unified land operations.

Moreover, the creation of AGE is also helping to shape information technology advances and industry behavior in the commercial sector, with recently released templates and workflows providing evidence that the enterprise influence is already making products better for Soldiers.

Organized as a USACE Center of Expertise on Oct. 1, 2009, AGC “supports the Army’s LandWarNet/Mission Command concepts, capabilities, and systems – facilitating dissemination of relevant geospatial information to every echelon throughout the dynamic battlefield environment.”

According to Joseph Fontanella, Ph.D., director of AGC, the organization works across four major areas: enterprise development and acquisition support; warfighter geospatial support production; systems acquisition/program management; and research, development, test, and evaluation in conjunction with USACE’s Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC).

U.S. Army Intelligence software flexes some new capabilities during Enterprise Challenge

Students and instructors attending the U.S. Army Geospatial Intelligence Analyst Course at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, Arizona, receive a tour of the ground terminal station of the Distributed Common Ground System-Army, during Exercise Enterprise Challenge 2012 (EC12) at the Joint Interoperability Test Command’s test site on Aug. 30. EC12 was an exercise executed at several locations by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency under the authority of the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Programs, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and allowed agencies and coalition partners to demonstrate, test, and evaluate technologies in an engineering-focused environment. Photo by Capt. Ray Ragan

“At the heart of all of that is a construct called an Army Geospatial Enterprise,” Fontanella explained. “It’s actually contained within the Army Campaign Plan, which assigns responsibility to the chief of engineers [Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick] to develop a net-centric Army Geospatial Enterprise that delivers a standard and shareable geospatial foundation that allows for horizontal and vertical exchange of geospatial information. And we do that effort on his behalf.

“That construct is the organizing principle of what we do here,” he added. “We try to connect the Army all the way from the tactical level, where Soldiers are collecting, updating, and utilizing data, up to the level of NGA [National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency] or other national agencies providing the data.”

He emphasized that the AGE is being built on open standards that do not rely on proprietary, stove-piped solutions.

“What it’s really designed to do is increase efficiency, reduce duplication, and minimize overhead. It’s an efficiency-gaining exercise that also facilitates data sharing and enables adaptive planning,” he noted.

Moreover, the creation of AGE is also helping to shape information technology advances and industry behavior in the commercial sector, with recently released templates and workflows providing evidence that the enterprise influence is already making products better for Soldiers.

In terms of direct warfighter support, Fontanella highlighted AGC’s collection, creation, and provisioning of geospatial information into relevant products.

“Back in the pre-OEF/OIF [Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom] days, the Army planned at the operational level and executed at the tactical level. So they planned on 1:250,000- or 1:500,000-scale maps and executed at 1:50,000,” Fontanella recalled. “But what we found during operations over the last 12 years is that we were really planning at the 1:50,000 level and then operating at scales that are much larger – urban-type scales. That’s where the majority of the Army requirements have been for the last 12-13 years. But that’s also where the NGA really has the hardest time producing data, because of the level of the fidelity required.”

One of the ways AGC provides data to warfighters is through the BuckEye Program, which was first deployed to Iraq in 2004 and to Afghanistan in 2006. Today, the BuckEye sensor is flying on one unmanned aircraft system (UAS) in Afghanistan and another flying in support of U.S. Central Command in Jordan.

As of the beginning of this year, Fontanella noted that BuckEye had “collected about two-thirds of Afghanistan in high resolution – we’re talking 1-meter post-spacing elevation data and super high-resolution electro-optical data.

“We create these high-fidelity data sets and build urban terrain databases, working off a priority list that we have created with the Army G-2 [Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army for Intelligence],” he said.

BuckEye and high-resolution 3-D terrain data-collection programs fall under AGC’s Tactical Source Branch, which is one of five branches organized under AGC’s Warfighter Support Directorate.

According to Michael Harper, head of the newly reorganized Warfighter Support Directorate, activities range from programs like Common Map Background, which provides mission-ready geospatial data sets to mission command, to environmental analysis, and to the collection of high-resolution 3-D terrain data to support overseas contingency operations and Network Integration Evaluation.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...