NGA issues solicitation as it moves to better monitor illicit maritime activities in Indo-Pacific

NGA Director Vice Adm. Frank Whitworth discussed this new pilot program and Project Aegir at the annual GEOINT Symposium.
Overhead view of NGA Campus East (NGA photo)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Following direct requests from U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency on Monday released its first-ever commercial solutions opening (CSO) solicitation to help purchase commercially made tools built for spotting, surveilling and tracking illicit maritime activities.

NGA Director Vice Adm. Frank Whitworth highlighted this CSO pilot program — and discussed the broader aims of the agency’s new Project Aegir initiative that it’s associated with — during his keynote at the annual GEOINT Symposium and in a media roundtable that followed. 

“On the maritime CSO, I would say that certainly what’s happening in the Red Sea would complement that. But in its infancy, this really stemmed from requirements that we get from the Indo-Pacom commander more than anybody,” Whitworth told DefenseScoop during the roundtable.

“And I hope — whether it’s now [the new Indo-Pacom commander Adm. Sam Paparo or former Indo-Pacom chief Adm. John Aquilino] because it was on [Aquilino’s] watch that we really listened hard to this requirement — I hope that they’re happy, because it’s another indication of how responsive we are,” he added. 


CSOs are a relatively new mechanism that enables the Defense Department and its components to buy innovative and emerging commercial capabilities from non-traditional vendors. 

Solicitations that follow CSO procedures generally allow the Pentagon to more rapidly select commercial solutions that meet fast-changing contemporary needs. 

“It was written into law in the [fiscal 2022] NDAA, and so we want to make sure that we’re using all the tools in our toolbox — not just operationally, but in the acquisition space — to get at those capabilities and to help unlock the potential in the industry,” NGA Commercial Operations Director Devin Brande told DefenseScoop during the media roundtable.

Through the new CSO pilot for capabilities to expand maritime domain awareness, NGA aims to “work more flexibly with industry and to allow them to come in with more creative ideas, where we don’t necessarily have the clearly defined thing that we want them to build and provide for us,” Brande explained.

This acquisition experiment marks just one element of Project Aegir, NGA’s new pursuit to shape a multiple-vendor approach and generate a commercial sensor architecture that can track and monitor illicit maritime activity all over the world. 


Whitworth emphasized how this new effort and aligned pilot collectively underscore the agency’s commitment to staying ahead of evolving threats and ultimately support frontline efforts against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, illicit trafficking, and other activities that pose problems for global security.

In this initial CSO pilot, “commercial vendors will work collectively to establish tasking algorithms for tipping and queuing a diverse array of sensors, conduct analysis and deliver wholly-unclassified, shareable intelligence of illicit maritime activities in the INDOPACOM area of responsibility,” according to the agency’s press release announcing the work.

Vendors can submit their responses May 6-24, after which time selected vendors will be invited to pitch their capabilities at Defense Innovation Unit headquarters in Mountain View, California, June 24-28, per the release.

“The selected vendor or group of vendors will be invited to participate in a $1.5 million pilot program to test capabilities. If the pilot program is successful, Project Aegir will be rolled into a major acquisition effort,” the release states.

Brandi Vincent

Written by Brandi Vincent

Brandi Vincent is DefenseScoop's Pentagon correspondent. She reports on emerging and disruptive technologies, and associated policies, impacting the Defense Department and its personnel. Prior to joining Scoop News Group, Brandi produced a long-form documentary and worked as a journalist at Nextgov, Snapchat and NBC Network. She was named a 2021 Paul Miller Washington Fellow by the National Press Foundation and was awarded SIIA’s 2020 Jesse H. Neal Award for Best News Coverage. Brandi grew up in Louisiana and received a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.

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