Findings in Brief
- The commercial geospatial-intelligence industry is growing rapidly. However, most of the growth is happening outside the United States, where foreign providers are matching and surpassing the offerings U.S. companies.
- Geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) is imagery of activities in relation to the Earth’s geography, usually collected from satellites or aircraft. It is a “dual-use” technology in that it can be useful to both military and civilian users.
- As with many other industries where the U.S. was once dominant, foreign providers of GEOINT have increased market share in part by exploiting subsidies from their governments. China in particular is investing heavily in methods of collecting and analyzing GEOINT.
- According to a recent study by MITRE, if Washington does not move to counter gains by other countries, the United States will soon lose its ability to control supply chains and set standards. Foreign providers could use predatory pricing to force U.S. companies from the market.
- GEOINT is an obvious candidate for inclusion in any industrial policy aimed at preserving U.S. technological dominance. Washington should recognize that U.S. providers are competing at a disadvantage, and take steps to preserve the industry by favoring domestic sources, streamlining regulations, and encouraging investment.
- None of these steps necessarily requires new federal funding. However, if policies do not evolve, America’s lead in geospatial intelligence may soon be gone.
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