The Business of Defense

How a geospatial data analytics company pivoted to meet DoD, IC intel needs

It can act as a force multiplier, says Dave Sterling, CEO of Royce Geo. Sterling talks both about the evolution of his eight-year-old business and how DoD and t...

The capability that Royce Geospatial Consultants provides to its government partners — putting novel innovation into the intelligence lifecycle to amplify tradecraft outputs — has been its core offering since the company’s founding in 2015. But how it delivers that capability has evolved dramatically since 2020.

“We’re seeing a lot of change in terms of how the government is really buying and procuring intelligence services,” said Dave Sterling, founder and CEO of Royce Geo. “Instead of buying hours — guys in the mission center, buying seats — it’s ‘Let’s buy analytical results.’ ”

That change has led to explosive growth for the Arlington, Virginia, company over the past 18 months, Sterling said during the American Society of Military Comptrollers’ The Business of Defense podcast on Federal News Network. Royce Geo now has 130 employees and has experienced triple-digit growth in revenue.

Sterling shared how his company helps support agencies across the Defense Department and Intelligence Community, as well as provided insights about how the technology to inform intelligence decision-making is evolving.

Providing people and advanced data analytics

Royce Geo began as a geospatial data company serving the IC. That made sense given Sterling’s early career background, which included working as an analyst at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Community (NGA).

In the early years, the focus was on providing highly trained geospatial analytics staff and technology services onsite in mission centers.

Working in federal facilities, “we were looking at usually classified national technical means type data,” Sterling said. “Now, we are looking at a tremendous amount of commercial data, which is being produced, as a huge multiplier compared to the national side — really doing that sense-making on the commercial side and bringing those two together.”

The company’s largest contracts are still with NGA, and he suspects that defense and intelligence organizations will always need some support onsite in mission centers. “We have individuals right now on three different continents outside of North America that are working with our military partners,” Sterling said, adding that the company also has a “huge footprint in the Midwest and St. Louis. And we also have folks in Colorado, Hawaii and Florida.”

But Royce Geo today has upward of 16 contracts across DoD, the IC and military services, with many focused on analytics delivery not necessarily onsite staff and technology support.

“We are really looking at how to build a lot of novel tradecraft using pure commercial open-source data and then bring that inside the building, if you will, and match that with the national-level data to really do that complete sense-making of the broader intelligence issues,” Sterling said.

Bringing AI to bear on intelligence insights

As to the use of new technologies, Royce Geo is looking closely at generative artificial intelligence to expand its current use of AI and machine learning.

But Sterling was quick to note: “Our role as a company is not to stand on a hilltop and wave, ‘Hey, we’re an AI company.’ We understand and use AI and ML capabilities, but it’s a part of our greater automation strategy.”

Today, the company uses AI/ML to build intelligence reports by automatically culling data from multiple streams, running that data by an analyst and then producing reports through an AI-generated model “that I can deliver right to a four star,” he said.

Humans are still essential in these processes, Sterling said.

“We’re pretty far away from an entire intelligence lifecycle being driven purely by machines,” he said. “That expert opinion, that expert judgment, that trained analyst, that trained soldier, they are still very much a part of the equation. And quite frankly, I don’t see them going away anytime soon.”

Even still, automation is speeding up what intelligence teams are capable of achieving.

The newer technology and AI/ML tools that Royce Geo deploys don’t replace government analysts or soldiers, Sterling said. They act as force multipliers instead, he said and offered an example based on working with a military team located in the Asia-Pacific.

Before Royce Geo implemented automation, the group of eight soldiers produced about five reports a day. “We turned that to 24 reports per soldier day,” Sterling said. “It was an exponential increase.”

To listen to the full discussion between David Sterling, CEO of Royce Geo, and Rich Brady, CEO of ASMC, click the podcast play button below:

Discover other The Business of Defense podcasts here.

Copyright © 2024 Federal News Network. All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Related Stories

    U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Tykeera MurrayNational Guard, southern borderSoldiers in the Army National Guard conduct a security search

    Guard’s support of DHS adds no military value

    Read more