Review: Commercial Observation Satellites–At the Leading Edge of Global Transparency

4 Star, Intelligence (Commercial)

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Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic High-Quality Book on Policies and Capabilities,

March 10, 2002
John Baker
This may well be the best book RAND has ever produced–certainly the best I have ever seen or reviewed. An edited work, it brings together thirty-one authorities and integrates very high-quality editing, photography, and references. It even has an index.As one who regards the collection of imagery as a supporting event, in support of the creation of geospatially-based all-source databases and integrated analysis, I would observe that this book must be regarded as skewed toward policies and capabilities related to commercial imagery collection. It does not address the many vital topics having to do with geospatial databases, the integration of diverse sources of geospatial imagery including Russian military maps and classified digital terrain elevation data, or the integrating of imagery into the all-source analysis process.

Commercial imagery is running roughly twelve years behind the early projections on both its adoption and its gross revenue potential. This is in large part because of a consistent prejudice against commercial sourcing by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Defense Mapping Agency (now the National Imagery and Mapping Agency). There are implications to this on-going negativity for the business marketplace–the cost of commercial imagery is still much higher than it need be, simply because the government is as yet unwilling to recognize that it should spend billions on acquiring commercial source imagery, not on building even more useless secret imagery satellites.

I recommend this book strongly, both for commanders who would like to exercise some control over national imagery collection policies and investments; and for business leaders who might wish to contemplate how the taxpayer dollar could be better spent in support of generic commercial imagery capabilities whose fruits can be easily shared with the private sector and especially non-governmental organization.

The editors and the authors of this book have excelled. I can find nothing to criticize–indeed, I expect the editors to get to work immediately on a follow-on book that brings together different authorities and focuses on the database and analysis side of the matter.

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