People were left scratching their heads last year when the Air Force's top intelligence officer said the U.S. was looking for ways to expand its multi-domain operations and intelligence gathering into galaxies, far far away.
When Lt. Gen. VeraLinn "Dash" Jamieson made the observation in August 2018, it sounded to many more like visions from movies like "Interstellar" and "The Matrix" than military policy.
"I only talk about the domains we know about today," Jamieson told Aviation Week's Steve Trimble following a briefing where Jamieson discussed the service's future intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flight strategy.
"I am convinced that there are more domains -- man-made domains -- that will come, and I would offer you that if we look at galaxies -- sounds nuts -- but there's going to be a man-made domain in galaxies," she said last August. "Space has got different galaxies. And in those galaxies, in the future, we're going to actually have capability that we have right now in the air. We don't know what it is because we haven't freed our mind to think about what is that space and how we are going to utilize it," she said.
In her comments last year, Jamieson wasn't describing plans to insert physical national security space assets into space systems light years away, she recently told Military.com.
Instead, the term "galaxies" was meant to invoke how the Pentagon should be streamlining and blending intelligence from anywhere in the world and beyond.
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"Envision if you will, the ISR constellation of sensors that are all interconnected by a common data architecture, operating with precision, clockwork and movements of a galaxy," Jamieson said in an interview at the Pentagon.
"So we took that and from that we went, 'well, let's put it down on paper.' That's where we came up with the collaborative sensing grid," she said.
The sensing grid, she explained, is a map of data fused from sensors that is processed through artificial intelligence and machine learning to produce an "all-domain picture."
"It helps us open up our minds to new ways to approach things," she said.
In 2016, Jamieson became the service's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance on the Air Staff at the Pentagon, known as the A2. This year, the Pentagon merged the A2 position with that of deputy chief of staff for Information Dominance, or A6. Following a senate vote in March, Jamieson also added cyber effects operations to her job title.
Jamieson, the first female intelligence officer to be a director of ISR for the Air Force in more than a decade, and the first intelligence officer to hold the A2 position, has been seen as a proponent of avant-garde ideas in ISR: she has put a high emphasis on artificial intelligence and machine intelligence as a necessity to process information from every domain, including space, more quickly.
"It incorporates everything," she said. For that reason, the days of PED, or processing, exploitation and dissemination of each individual piece of intel, without putting it into greater context, are "dead," she said last year.
For her, "galaxy" was a "sexy word to say. How do I actually look at things through a different lens? How do I look at the interconnectedness of space? Because that gets me thinking very differently than terrestrial examples," Jamieson said. "If I can look at [the] interconnectedness of the solar system, can I look at an interconnectedness of my sensors, whether I have them today or I'm going to attain them tomorrow?"
With the sensing grid, "I can look at an adversary's intent in a much clearer way ... and attain decision advantage," she said.
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.