Reflecting on GEOINT and SOF Week 2024: A Pivotal Moment for Innovation and Partnerships

Reflecting on GEOINT and SOF Week 2024: A Pivotal Moment for Innovation and Partnerships

As specialists in analytic solutions and AI within the defense sector, we eagerly anticipate the annual gatherings at GEOINT and SOF Week—key events that set the stage for the year’s technological advancements and strategic partnerships. This year, both events surpassed our expectations, offering unprecedented opportunities to showcase our innovative solutions, engage with future talent, and deepen our connections within the global defense community.

As specialists in analytic solutions and AI within the defense sector, we eagerly anticipate the annual gatherings at GEOINT and SOF Week—key events that set the stage for the year’s technological advancements and strategic partnerships. This year, both events surpassed our expectations, offering unprecedented opportunities to showcase our innovative solutions, engage with future talent, and deepen our connections within the global defense community.

We are very grateful to the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) and the Global Special Operations Forces (SOF) Foundation for their impeccable organization and hospitality. These events not only serve as a platform for presenting cutting-edge technologies and methodologies but also foster an environment where professionals from various sectors of the defense community can exchange ideas and forge collaborative paths forward.

Figure 1: The 3GIMBALS team preparing for SOF Week discussions.

In this post, we are excited to share highlights from these events, including the honor of having one of our products featured during the opening remarks at GEOINT, our involvement fostering the next generation of intelligence professionals, and our lightning talks at both GEOINT 2024 and SOF Week. Join us as we reflect on memorable moments from these gatherings, which continue to inspire our work and drive our mission forward.

3GIMBALS Highlighted in GEOINT Opening Ceremony

At this year’s GEOINT Symposium, we were privileged to have our analytical product, “Navigating the Waters: China’s Strategic Gambit in Djibouti,” featured prominently during the opening ceremony. This recognition was not just an honor but a testament to the strategic importance of our work in providing foundational military intelligence. The highlight of this recognition came when Robert Cardillo, Chairman of the Board at Planet Federal and former Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), discussed our contributions in depth. His address pointed specifically to our analysis of China’s only overseas military base and related geopolitical maneuvers in Djibouti, which he detailed from 18:14 to 20:05 in the ceremony video, a segment that we proudly direct our audience to view here.

Figure 2: Robert Cardillo spotlighting 3GIMBALS’ work during the GEOINT 2024 opening ceremony.

Our product delves into the critical geopolitical and economic implications of China’s investments in Djibouti, positioned at a crucial maritime chokepoint. These investments are significant for their potential to alter regional power dynamics and for enabling China to project its military power more effectively, thus heightening the strategic stakes for U.S. and allied interests in the region. Our analysis provides a comprehensive look at how China’s presence in Djibouti could serve dual civilian and military purposes, enhancing its ability to control vital trade routes and influence major global shipping lanes.

The spotlight on our analysis of potential risks from geopolitical maneuvers, such as the debt trap scenario with Chinese infrastructure control, sparked significant interest and deep discussions at our booth. These conversations with government and industry leaders not only highlighted the current geopolitical landscape but also underscored the future intelligence needs crucial for U.S. national security and the balance of power in the Indian Ocean region. Our engagement at GEOINT 2024 set a strong precedent for our continued leadership in shaping unclassified intelligence, demonstrating the vital role of vigilant and innovative intelligence analysis in national defense strategies. We look forward to continuing these important discussions and invite all interested parties to engage with us as we prepare for next year’s events.

Lightning Talks at GEOINT on Russian Cyber Threats and Disinformation Campaigns

Also, during this year’s GEOINT Symposium, 3GIMBALS proudly presented two lightning talks discussing innovative approaches to integrating geospatial intelligence with cybersecurity and media forensics. These talks sparked a series of enriching discussions and follow-up engagements with senior U.S. and international government officials.

From Bytes to Coordinates: Geospatial Tracing of Advanced Cyber Threats

Our Lead Cyber Analyst, Rob Falcon, showcased “From Bytes to Coordinates: Geospatial Tracing of Advanced Cyber Threats,” focusing on the notorious Russian advanced persistent threat (APT) group Sandworm. Rob’s presentation explored our unique methodology for mapping cyber threats by integrating cyber threat indicators with geospatial data. This novel approach not only enhances strategic cybersecurity decision-making but also adds a geographical dimension to the understanding of cyber threats.

By employing a comprehensive integration of data from various threat intelligence tools, Rob demonstrated how we visualize the network infrastructure—from origins to targets—used in cyberattacks. His talk illustrated the powerful synthesis of cybersecurity and geospatial analysis, unveiling new dimensions in understanding and combating cyber threats.

Figure 3: Rob Falcon, Lead Cyber Analyst at 3GIMBALS, delivering his lightning talk at the GEOINT Symposium.

Unmasking Russian Disinformation Networks with Geospatial Forensic Analysis

Our collaboration with Clemson University’s Media Forensics Hub was highlighted in the talk “Unmasking Russian Disinformation Networks with Geospatial Forensic Analysis,” presented by 3GIMBALS Vice President of Solution Applications, Steven Sheffield. This presentation revealed our efforts to expose a vast Russian disinformation network, orchestrated by entities linked to the Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Steven detailed how the team employed advanced analysis of open-source material, combined with geospatial insights, to uncover the intricate web of deceit. The talk emphasized pivotal breakthroughs, such as identifying digital tradecraft errors, that pointed to a Russian origin of disinformation campaigns. This forensic analysis not only showcased our capabilities but also underscored the critical role of geospatial technology in unmasking and understanding complex disinformation networks and the power of academic partnerships with industry.

Figure 4: Steven Sheffield, Vice President of Solution Applications at 3GIMBALS, delivering his GEOINT Symposium lightning talk.

These lightning talks resonated with attendees, prompting follow-up discussions about the implications of Russian cyber activities and disinformation campaigns. The urgent need for advanced analytical capabilities was evident in these engagements. In addition to laying the groundwork for continued dialogue and cooperation with key global partners, these talks sparked discussions with academia about researching Russian campaigns in South America.

Engaging the Next Generation—USGIF’s Student Program Participation

During GEOINT 2024, we had the opportunity to inspire future talent through our engagement with 10 Orlando, Florida and St. Louis, Missouri high school students eager to explore careers in geospatial intelligence. These students received a comprehensive overview of 3GIMBALS from Matt Hall, our Executive Vice President of People Operations, who introduced our areas of expertise and our innovation-driven company culture. This was followed by an in-depth look at OMEN, our analytics and data science solution, presented by Jeremy Widener, our Director of OMEN Delivery. Jeremy highlighted OMEN’s technical capabilities and its applications in addressing global challenges, then Matt concluded the segment by discussing Ti, our consulting practice that aids government agencies in adopting advanced technologies.

Figure 5: Matt Hall, Executive Vice President of People Operations, and Jeremy Widener, Director of OMEN Delivery, discussing the power of GEOINT with high school students from St. Louis, Missouri and Orlando, Florida.

The interaction then transitioned into smaller, more personalized group discussions led by 3GIMBALS experts. These discussions allowed students to explore various career paths within the geospatial sector, from military to civilian roles, and from academic settings to federal government contracting. The students also learned about the diverse applications of geospatial intelligence, including monitoring foreign military activities, mapping deforestation and its underlying causes, addressing illegal fishing, and analyzing climate change impacts. These engaging and informative sessions not only highlighted the broad scope and significance of geospatial work but also underscored the practical and transformative impacts of this field on addressing critical global issues.

These engagements with the students at GEOINT 2024 are part of a broader 3GIMBALS focus on academic partnerships. Steven Sheffield, Vice President of Solution Applications, not only serves as a thought leader for 3GIMBALS, but also teaches at Clemson University. Through this collaboration, he has integrated student interns into real-world projects at 3GIMBALS. This initiative has not only provided real-world experience and opened doors to full-time employment, but also underscores our commitment to nurturing the workforce of tomorrow.

NGA Announcements and Business Development Opportunities

The 2024 GEOINT Symposium was not only a platform for showcasing existing solutions but also served as a critical venue for unveiling new opportunities and challenges facing the geospatial intelligence community. Two significant announcements by NGA captured the attention of industry participants and paved the way for a flurry of discussions at our booth—the Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO) and the LUNO B initiative.

Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO): A Focus on IUU Fishing

NGA’s announcement of a new Maritime Domain Awareness CSO with an initial topic of interest focused on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU-F) was particularly pertinent given our expertise in this domain. The CSO seeks innovative commercial solutions that can track, locate, and identify vessels, specifically Chinese activity within the INDOPACOM area of responsibility (AOR). This sparked discussions at our booth around how our technologies could integrate with other commercial offerings to provide a comprehensive end-to-end solution from tasking and collection to processing, exploitation, and dissemination (TCPED) of intelligence.

Figure 6: Chinese companies use deceptive practices such as shell companies to circumvent laws barring international fishing in domestic waters. Sources: news media and corporate records.

LUNO B Initiative: Enhancing GEOINT Accessibility

The LUNO B initiative, spotlighted at the symposium, is a transformative effort by the NGA to enhance how geospatial information is managed, aiming to broaden access to data and integrate it into the NSG’s enterprise capabilities. This initiative is especially relevant to 3GIMBALS, given our track record in leveraging unconventional datasets to monitor economic activities and map foreign investments. Our previous work, such as analyzing Chinese investments in the Solomon Islands and investigating Chinese involvement in Peruvian illegal logging, exemplifies our capability in this area. These experiences position us ideally to contribute to the LUNO B objectives, enhancing the utility and accessibility of geospatial intelligence. Post-announcement discussions at the symposium further explored potential partnerships, highlighting our readiness to collaborate with industry peers and government agencies to deliver innovative, unclassified commercial GEOINT solutions that meet the evolving needs of NGA and the broader intelligence community.

Figure 7: Overview of deforestation and illegal timber seizures throughout Peru in 2021.

At 3GIMBALS, we are inspired by the possibilities these initiatives present and are eager to contribute our expertise. We encourage all interested parties looking to explore these opportunities, or other collaborative endeavors, to reach out and partner with us. By leveraging our deep domain expertise and innovative technologies, together we can tackle some of the most pressing challenges in the geospatial intelligence realm today.

Personal Engagements at SOF Week

SOF Week 2024 served as an equally pivotal platform for 3GIMBALS to demonstrate our capabilities, engage in meaningful discussions, and strengthen ties with global defense partners. The week was packed with activities, from insightful lightning talks to dynamic one-on-one engagements, all underscored by the significance of personal connections within the defense and intelligence community.

3GIMBALS presented six diverse lightning talks, each focusing on a critical aspect of intelligence and security:

  • The Unexpected Role of Nail Salons in Resupplying Russian Military Forces: A fascinating look into unconventional logistics channels.
  • Linking Ukrainian Resistance Groups to Russian Drone Facilities via a Sushi Bar: An intriguing case of how everyday businesses can serve as fronts for military operations.
  • Mapping the Russian Cyber Threat Landscape: A retelling of our GEOINT lightning talk exploring geospatial analytic techniques for cyber analysis.
  • Analyzing Russian Disinformation Campaigns: A preview of our GEOINT lightning talk providing insights into the mechanics of Russian disinformation and its global impact.
  • Leveraging AI to Geospatialize Datasets: Demonstrating how AI can enhance the utility of geospatial data across various intelligence applications.
  • Chinese Counterintelligence Threats to US Overseas Bases: A critical analysis of the security challenges posed by Chinese intelligence activities.

Figure 8: The 3GIMBALS team delivering lightning talks at our SOF Week booth.

The talks were not only well-received but also led to numerous follow-up conversations, highlighting the relevance and timeliness of our analytical offerings. In a lighter moment of engagement, we held a bourbon giveaway, a popular draw that saw Charles Vaccaro, Commercial Risk Advisor for BKS Partners, winning a bottle of bourbon. This gesture added a fun element to the serious discussions of the week and facilitated more relaxed interactions among participants.

Figure 9: The 3GIMBALS team posing with our bourbon giveaway winner, Charles Vaccaro.

3GIMBALS was honored to be selected for one-on-one engagements with government officials from both Romania and Lithuania. These meetings allowed for deep dives that fostered a nuanced understanding of the unique security challenges faced by their SOF forces.

As one of our analysts aptly put it, “This was truly the highlight of my year…so far.” The enthusiasm encapsulates the value and excitement of SOF Week, where professional engagements were complemented by after-hours socials. These informal gatherings in Tampa provided a unique opportunity to strengthen bonds and build new connections within the global defense community. The personal interactions during these evening events are often where trust is built and partnerships are forged, reinforcing the importance of face-to-face engagements in our field.

Looking Forward

As we reflect on the rich experiences and fruitful discussions from GEOINT 2024 and SOF Week 2024, we extend our deepest gratitude to the USGIF and the Global SOF Foundation. Their exemplary organization of these events facilitated a platform not only for showcasing innovative solutions but also for nurturing vital relationships within the defense and intelligence communities.

The connections made during these events are invaluable. They underline the significance of continuous engagement and collaboration among industry peers, government partners, and academic institutions. These interactions enrich our perspectives, enhance our offerings, and strengthen the collective capability to address complex global challenges. Our participation has reinforced our resolve to remain actively involved and contribute to the discourse and development within these pivotal communities.

Looking ahead, we eagerly anticipate next year’s events with a commitment to bring even more value and insight. The ongoing conversations initiated at these symposiums will continue to evolve, and we are excited about the potential they hold. To this end, we encourage all participants, partners, and industry colleagues to keep the dialogue going. Engage with us on LinkedIn, reach out through our company channels, or visit our blog for more insights and updates. Together, let’s keep the momentum going, building on the knowledge shared and the relationships forged to ensure a safer, more secure future.

Thank you once again to everyone involved, and we look forward to seeing you at next year’s GEOINT and SOF Week.

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