As world events develop, NGA constantly faces the challenge of designing new methods to address evolving situations. This turbulent atmosphere makes NGA an exciting place to work for everyone from the agency’s leaders to student interns who are getting their first taste of serving the nation. Through an unusual partnership, NGA developed situational awareness products to support U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and further U.S. national strategy.
Provincial Reconstruction Teams
Currently there are multiple provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan, consisting of civilian and military personnel from 15 nations, all members of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Some PRTs are multinational, while others are made up of a single nation’s personnel; half are led by the United States. Established in 2002 as part of an international effort to help extend the authority of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, PRTs support reconstruction and economic development activities.
Civilian PRT members work with Afghan officials, international organizations such as the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) to promote political, economic, humanitarian and social welfare development. Military elements provide security, medical assistance, transport and engineering. Several U.S. civilian agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, Department of Agriculture and Department of Commerce, have representatives in the PRTs. Given the composition of the PRTs, information sharing and civil–military collaboration are critical to efficient operations.
Portraying the Electric Power Infrastructure
A primary goal of the PRT efforts in Afghanistan is to improve the creation and distribution of electric power to the civilian population, which in turn would improve the quality of daily life. In August 2009, NGA was asked to provide data and information about the current status of Afghanistan’s high-voltage national-level electric power infrastructure, including the location of current transmission lines and power generation facilities. Depicting the current state of civil infrastructure and economic development assists PRT decision makers in planning improvements to promote stability in Afghanistan.
Over the summer of 2009, an undergraduate student intern studying civil engineering at the University of Missouri worked at NGA learning electric power infrastructure and identification of that infrastructure on imagery. In August, NGA arranged with the university’s Center for Geospatial Intelligence to allow the student to create the requested Afghanistan electric power infrastructure data in a telework agreement while attending fall semester classes. The center, an interdisciplinary academic research facility, focuses on processing and exploiting geospatial data and information for national security applications.
Under this unique arrangement, and with oversight from a senior NGA geospatial analyst, the student analyzed commercial imagery, which NGA provided, for electric power infrastructure. He extracted feature data of the location of the major power lines and identified the locations and types of power generation facilities in the country. To ensure he did not miss any vital components of Afghanistan’s multiple electric power networks, he correlated his analysis with open source information from the Afghanistan Energy Information Center. In September, a senior NGA geospatial analyst traveled to the university to monitor the student’s progress and adjust and clarify the student’s work processes. In October, the student sent his completed work to NGA for review and publication.
Upon receipt of the data and analysis, NGA provided the information to the agency’s PRT liaison in Afghanistan, giving local decision makers information needed for future humanitarian reconstruction efforts. NGA also published the data via regular production channels for wide dissemination to the Intelligence Community.
Through its partnership with the student and the university’s analytic resources, NGA satisfied the customer’s request and informed the decision makers in a timely manner. As for the student intern, when asked “How did you spend your summer?” he’ll have an amazing story to tell.
Tarassa S. is chief of the Energy Infrastructure Analysis Branch. Members of the Office of Targeting and Transnational Issues and the University of Missouri's Center for Geospatial Intelligence contributed to this article.
Article courtesy of NGA's November/December 2009 Pathfinder magazine.
Student Intern Supports Afghanistan’s Provincial Reconstruction (2.06 MB)