GEOINT 2012 Orlando Take-Aways
Okay, so I haven’t really written much about anything for the past several weeks if not months. Truth is, I’ve got about 10 blog articles in running-draft form but events overtake plans and none of them seem to get done. This however, is my immediate post-mortem take-away from the recent USGIFGEOINT 2012 Symposium at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, Florida earlier this month. By far, what resonated most with me during this year’s event was the keynote by DNI Clapper, particularly the comments about sequestration during a time where the US and it’s allies around the world are faced with threats and challenges that rival the height of the Cold War. A perfect storm of sorts and like the movie, it’s not likely to end well.
There is a light in the distance (I don’t think it’s the proverbial freight train however), in that another proverb comes to mind: necessity is the mother of invention. Shrinking GEOINT budgets should (and I stress, should, all things being equal) force the NGA and other areas of the USG involved in GEOINT (ok, so that’s every body) to make wiser, more cost-effective choices when it comes to technology solutions, infrastructure, services and data. Getting more for less (or at least at financial parity) is part of the strategic success to navigate through the uncertain times ahead and survive, if not thrive, during sequestration.
Small and medium sized companies provide what the GEOINT community needs most today; innovation. Most small companies must radically innovate and take risks in order to survive against large, lumbering incumbents (software and service providers). It’s not an unfair criticism to state that almost no real innovation occurs in really large companies (you know who you are), and it is truly a rare thing to see breakthrough innovation in large organizations. When we do see this from big companies, it’s because of a radical champion who goes against the grain of conventional, corporate culture and group-think, breaks the mold, inspires and motivates others to challenge the status quo. Jeff Jonas continues to be one of the rarest of the rare in that category, and since I am on that subject, the standout shout-outs go to Chris Tucker (“Tucker was right”) and Abe Usher, both attributed by Jonas during his keynote talk during the luncheon.
Corporations are not people (sorry Mr. Romney), but they do act very much like people at times. When a business reaches a certain revenue milestone, the business leadership starts to adopt an explicit, risk-adverse posture. We see this in the human experience all the time. I’m always perplexed by this transformation in businesses and I’ve come to the conclusion that when this shift happens, it is because the goals of the business are no longer aligned with the goals of the customer base. It’s subtle, but look for it in the GEOINT industry. It is particularly frustrating when it is taxpayer funding that supports and drives a large majority of the revenues of many of the largest companies in the industry and yet, the returns for every dollar diminish rapidly year over year.
I was truly encouraged to see considerable traction in the FOSS4G / MIL-OSS community during this GEOINT event, and the growing community that is beginning to realize the significant power and value that open-source has for GEOINT, not to mention that many of those open-source companies are also small, hungry and innovative centers of excellence that are worthy custodians and stewards of taxpayer funds. I look forward to the growth of this community and hopefully to a greater contribution as our own company</a> explores various business models in that arena.
I’m already anxiously awaiting GEOINT 2013 for many reasons, not least of which, is that it is going to be in Tampa, Florida and in our neighborhood where we can showcase what small business in Florida has to offer the GEOINT community at large. Be sure to mark it on your calendar for next year and if some decisions favor us over the next year, we’ll have some surprises in store for the event.