US military overwhelmed by surveillance data


The United States is being overwhelmed by a rapidly growing amount of surveillance data, something that cannot be fixed by hiring more data analysts, according to the head of the US Strategic Command.

US Air Force General C Robert Kehler on Wednesday said that data collected by US government satellites and aerial surveillance platforms has increased 1 500% over the last five years, but the American government’s ability to process the information has only increased by 30%.

Kehler was addressing the Geoint 2011 symposium in San Antonia, Space News reports.

Kehler said that hiring thousands of more analysts to process, exploit and disseminate the data was ‘not a realistic’ solution. Instead, he said that information should be available to analysts across the globe. “Let’s bring the information to the analyst, not the analyst to the information,” Kehler said.

In the long term Kehler said that technology will assist in sorting through data and then made ready for analysts to evaluate. “Let machines handle the data so that humans can handle the decision,” he said.

In a separate address, US undersecretary of defence for intelligence, Michael G Vickers, said that the amount of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data being generated out of Afghanistan is currently five times the amount produced over Iraq at the height of the war there.

Every day 53 terabytes of data is produced, equivalent to 2.5 million full-length films. The bandwidth (both terrestrial and satellite) necessary to support such data flow has increased by 1 000%, Vickers said.

In 2009, the USA’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles alone generated 24 years’ worth of video if watched continuously. New UAV models are expected to produce 30 times as much information this year 2011.
“We are going to find ourselves in the not too distant future swimming in sensors and drowning in data,” Lieutenant General Deptula, USAF deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, said recently.