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Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies

Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies

AJDSS Volume 2 Number 2


The power of GEOINT: intelligence, operations and capability in the 2020s and beyond

Scott Dewar

Published online: 3 December 2020


Anyone with a smart phone is aware of how rapidly the technology to gather, process and share images and data has transformed how we work, interact and perceive the world. And there’s no sign that technology is slowing down. If anything these advances are accelerating. Technological innovation has revolutionised the geospatial sector and will continue to have a profound impact on all we do, empowering the delivery of better intelligence insights, underpinning the conduct of operations, and enabling what modern capabilities can deliver for government. Geospatial information and geospatial intelligence (together GEOINT) can provide a decisive edge in national security competition - for strategic leadership through to tactical commanders. But, simply keeping up with the technological changes will not be enough to take full advantage of this revolution.

The goal of the GEOINT enterprise is to deliver assured information and intelligence to Defence users. To do that, we need to develop and nurture the GEOINT expertise across Defence. GEOINT has to be mainstreamed into Defence thinking and processes from the earliest planning stages so it can deliver the right information at the right time to the right decision-makers.

Geospatial data must be considered as vital an ingredient in operations as fuel. We must consider what types of data we need, where it can be collected, and how it can be shared and fed back into a system that supports superior situational awareness and decision-making. GEOINT cannot be an afterthought; it must become a first order consideration when intelligence is being produced, operations are planned and conducted, and Defence acquisitions are considered and managed.

Defence took a big step towards this goal this year with the release of Defence GEOINT 2030 - A Strategy for Defence’s GEOINT Capability. Through the strategy the Defence GEOINT community - led by the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO) - agreed to five strategic goals and committed to working together to achieve them. Integration will be key. As the demand for GEOINT increases, the Defence GEOINT community will need to ensure that the spectrum of data, information, intelligence and services that comprise GEOINT are integrated and service-enabled. Our shared challenges are great, but we also have a real opportunity for the Defence GEOINT community to strengthen its contribution to achieving Defence’s mission.

What is GEOINT?

The term ‘geospatial intelligence’ (GEOINT) refers to the collection, analysis and dissemination of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities in the air, land, maritime and space domains. 1 It is intelligence derived from the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information that informs our understanding of features and events, with reference to space and time. 2

Imagery collection and analysis is at the historical heart of GEOINT, but the field goes well beyond that. Other data types such as terrain data, human geography, meteorology, hydrography and many more are brought together to make up GEOINT. It is a scientific pursuit. It relies on inputs of data. It relies on making hypotheses and testing them against what is observed. There can be denial and deception, but imagery analysis and the other disciplines of GEOINT that answer questions about the physical environment are expected to provide truth.

Understanding what happens where underpins all strategic and operational level decisions, in peace, war and times of grey zone conflict. And, describing in detail where things are and where events occur is what GEOINT is all about. Delivering authoritative information and intelligence, at speed, to those who need it is the core mission for GEOINT. When fully exploited, GEOINT can provide a powerful decision-making advantage to a nation.

Read the full article as a pdf

To cite this article:

Documentary-note: S Dewar, ‘The power of GEOINT: intelligence, operations and capability in the 202s and beyond’, Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies, [online] 2020, 2(2):239-245.

Author-Date (Harvard): Dewar, S., 2020. ‘The power of GEOINT: intelligence, operations and capability in the 202s and beyond’, Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies, [online] 2(2), 239-245. Available at: <>

1 Dept of Defence, Defence GEOINT 2030: a strategy for Defence's GEOINT capability', Department of Defence, Australian Government, 2020. '

2 Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO), Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT), ( ), website, Department of Defence, accessed 6 November 2020.