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What makes a PED, a PED?


The people who work in the Defense and Intelligence Community will attest to the large number of three letter acronyms they encounter daily. It’s not only the organizations (DoD, NGA, DIA, CIA, NSA, etc) but the technical terms too (NTM, HSI, ATR, OGC, CDP).

One TLA, or three letter acronym, that keeps coming up in my world is PED or Processing, Exploitation, and Dissemination. These days I most commonly hear the acronym as part of a “PED Cell”. Processing, Exploitation, and Dissemination might seem obvious to those who work with geospatial imagery, after all, it's the way we turn data into an answer. However, PED in the context of the defense intelligence mission takes on a very unique meaning.

Here's how I describe a PED cell and it's goals:

A PED cell is a special group of war fighters and analysts who work to produce intelligence products from a steady stream of imagery delivered from in-theater collection assets. Their products are used in near-real time to conduct tactical operations that maximize force effectiveness and minimize risk of life. To accomplish this, PED cells must sift through every shred of imagery that comes off the sensor. Typically, automated processing techniques are applied to narrow in on the most important information in the imagery stream. Sophisticated image processing routines uncover targets, signals, or patterns that would be missed by visual exploitation alone.

In image exploitation, the analyst examines the raw imagery and processing results to expose the targets, signals, or patterns with real intelligence value. The analyst often integrates other intelligence sources to provide context and further validate their findings.

Then, the analyst assembles a description of the target with its location and tactical significance into a graphic, map, or report that is the intelligence product. The intelligence product is disseminated directly to a consumer who is considering immediate action in-theater. The dissemination may happen via electronic or hardcopy communication chains but either way the emphasis is on quickness.

Later, the PED cell data may be delivered to other geospatial intelligence cells for additional analysis or after action reporting.

PED cells are an integral part of imagery data intelligence because they are the closest to the data collection source, closest to the tactical user, and closest to the hard problems. They have to analyze everything, narrow in on the most critical information and produce actionable intelligence. Oh yeah, all this has to be done in near real time. These attributes make PED cells a key component of the tactical intelligence weapons system.