NGA Study Natural Language Processing Benefits for Mission Progress – MeriTalk

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has long been the imagery and map analysis agency of the intelligence community (IC), but agency officials believe that a central part of that mission is the analysis of the written word.

NGA delved into a yearlong federally funded study of natural language processing (NLP) to raise awareness of the potential time savings and intelligence gains made possible through greater access to text analysis software.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, NGA is about countless words,” Monica Lipscomb, NLP program manager at NGA, said in a statement. “Map reading, legend generation and image notation are obvious examples.”

The report found that NGA’s workforce spends approximately 80 percent of their average workflow reading or generating text, whether they are conducting research, reviewing documents, tipping images or generating reports. NLP enables the automatic sifting, sorting, translation, understanding and meaning-making of billions of words.

In addition to speeding up the analytical workflow, NLP has applicability to workflows involving security, finance, policy, records management and navigational alert security, Lipscomb explained.

Earlier this year, the NGA launched the Source Maritime Automated Processing System (SMAPS) – which is powered by NLP and basic machine learning – and reportedly halved the time needed to process incoming incident messages and generate alerts.

However, “many NGA staff know that NLP resources are available, but they have difficulty knowing where to find them or how to orient them to NGA topics of interest,” Lipscomb said.

Going forward, NGA wants to facilitate mission advancement in other agency workflows such as those achieved through SMAPS. NGA also plans to continue discussions with the larger IC and create an enterprise-wide community of interest for NLP resources.

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