Amid growing interest from intelligence agencies and the Pentagon in buying remote sensing data and analytic services from commercial providers, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is probing industry on what hindrances vendors face when contracting with the U.S. government.
A new study directed by ODNI seeks to “examine ways to overcome barriers to use of commercial remote sensing/space-based data and analytic services in the Intelligence Community and Department of Defense,” according to a request for information posted to Sam.gov on Monday.
Responses to the RFI are intended to help the IC and Pentagon identify those barriers, and they could assist the organizations in developing solutions and inform future funding decisions, the document added.
The office is specifically interested in two capabilities: commercial overhead data and commercial overhead analytic services.
The RFI defines commercial overhead data as “unprocessed and/or processed signals or images” purchased from a space-based provider in industry, including radio frequency data, communications intelligence, electronic intelligence and geolocation.
Overhead analytics services are the “products, analytics, or services derived using space-based commercial remote sensing capabilities,” which could include geospatial information derived or not derived from images, as well as finished analytics and products, according to the document.
In recent years, the Defense Department has worked to break down bureaucratic barriers in order to take advantage of capabilities available in a burgeoning commercial space industry. The Space Force in June broadened its Commercial Services Office to maximize opportunities for partnering with vendors, and it’s collaborating closely with the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, according to the Space Force.
At the same time, members of the intelligence community run a Commercial Space Council focused on leveraging commercial satellite data, analysis and services.
“Although it is the policy of the United States to eliminate impediments to the timely delivery of space capabilities and accelerate the use of commercial capabilities, frequently commercial industry encounters challenges to working with the U.S. government and spending on commercial analytic products remains relatively small compared to spending on commercial satellite data,” the RFI said.
The office is asking industry to respond to a survey of 13 questions by Sept. 22. The queries are intended to solicit details about the specific challenges that have occurred while working with the Defense Department and intelligence community, how cybersecurity requirements influence contracting, what artificial intelligence and machine learning tools responders are using, and more.
ODNI may hold an invitation-only focus group to discuss the topic more in depth based on the number of responses, according to the notice.