It can be better at providing intel than the NGA is:
Hundreds of billions of dollars has been spent on photo satellites since the 1960s, and the troops always seem to get leftovers, if anything and usually too late to be of any use. Yet the satellite people regularly conned Congress out of more money so they could build more satellites, and neat systems that would get the satellite imagery “to the troops.” The goods never arrived, or never arrived in time. Generals gave angry testimony before Congress about this non-performance after the 1991 Kuwait War. The satellite people seemed contrite and said they would make it right. If given the money to do it. They got the money and the troops got nothing.
Then the troops got access to Google Earth in 2005 and saw firsthand what they have been missing. To make matters worse the software Google Earth uses to get the job done was first developed for the NGA. But the way the NGA operates you had to worry about security considerations and all manner of bureaucratic details before you could deploy a useful tool so they really couldn’t use the Google interface on a wide scale. Mention that the troops in question are fighting a war and the NGA will point out that you still have to deal with security and keeping the paperwork straight.
Soon after 2005 the troops were beating NGA over the head with Google Earth and Congress took notice. However, NGA bureaucrats were close at hand and the angry troops are far away. Progress was still slow. But at least the troops had Google Earth.
The bad guys get to use Google Earth, too, which makes it imperative that NGA isn’t allowed to stand in the way of our troops using it.
Anyway, read the whole thing which has some unreported information on the state of our spy satellite program and Google Earth’s unintended consequences.
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