The National Security Agency, while primarily occupied by sweeping up billions of phone calls, emails, texts and social media messages each day, wants better visual information about the earth and its residents, too, Admiral Michael Rogers said Wednesday.

“Signals intelligence … ain’t enough, you guys,” the NSA chief told a gathering of contractors in the geospatial intelligence business. “We gotta create a much broader picture.”

We need “the ability to visualize,” he explained, because “man is fundamentally a visual creature.”

Rogers, who also heads the Pentagon’s United States Cyber Command, spent much of his keynote speech at the GEOINT 2015 conference pitching the technology, intelligence and defense companies in the audience on the importance of working together. The conference’s slogan — appropriate, given the government’s ever-growing demands — is “open the aperture.”

“It’s all about partnerships,” Rogers told the audience. “How can we harness the power of the commercial sector?”

Nearly 300 private companies sent representatives, from giants like Booz Allen Hamilton, Dell, and Northrop Grumman, to smaller firms, all displaying their wares on the showroom floor right outside the room where Rogers spoke, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Walking through 100,000 square meters of booths, participants can see dozens of digitally rendered, real-time depictions of the earth’s surface. A product called Cesium is “like Google Earth,” an exhibitor said, except it can work in any browser, no downloads required. The KeyW corporation operates its own plane, as well as an intensive open source data scraping system for human geography known as MOSAIC that the National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency asked it to build.

Also at the conference on Tuesday, Therese Marie Whelan, a Department of Defense official, pointed to the power of geographical imaging for war. “We are now able to convey information that is reliable and uniquely capable of filling gaps from other intelligence disciplines to warfighters and policymakers with incredible speed,” Whelan said.

“A lot of the problems we deal with today are so complex that no single company or agency or nonprofit can solve them itself,” said Thad Allen, the Booz Allen vice president who introduced Rogers.

(This post is from our blog: Unofficial Sources.)

Photo: NSA Director Mike Rogers speaking at GEOINT. (GEOINT 2015 hand-out)