18 September 2009

Catching Up With BRITE

One of the first projects I really had an impact on was a little imagery dissemination project for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency called BRITE (originally Broadcast-Request Imagery Technology Experiment... I think they changed the E to something else later). It was a small system designed to provide overhead imagery to forward deployed SpecOps guys who had very limited bandwidth and were highly mobile.

The BRITE project was one of the keys to developing my FIST approach to technology development. We had a very small team - in fact, I was the only government guy working on the project (and I was a junior Captain). On the contractor side, we just had a handful of people, and most of them were only assigned to the project part time, as I recall. The budget was quite small, the deployment schedule was short (this was 2001 - 2002). The system was designed to operate in austere conditions and it worked like magic.

That experience had an enormous impact on my thinking and my perspective on what can be done with small teams of talented people, working on tight budgets and tight schedules. It also hammered home the importance of simplicity - organizationally, technically and procedurally.

So, just for fun I googled it and came up with a great story about using BRITE to support the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort. It's nice to see that my little project still had legs after I'd moved on to other things.


Dick Field said...

Dontcha just love those early-career experiences that stick with ya? In the Pre-Digital Age (PDA - that's right, in the Dawn of Time), myself and another newly-hired GS-7 at the US Bureau of Mines (now history) were given the task of simplifying the multiplicity and redundancy of Bureau contract and grant terms and conditions. Just the two of us, in a conference room, no budget. We came up with a basic form of Ts & Cs, with 3 or 4 supplement documents for different contract/grant types. The supplements would "overlay" the baseline document and self-add/delete provisions to tailor to the need at hand . . . and this was all low-tech, namely, paper. We got an attaboy and a monetary award. Simpler times, simpler solutions.

The Dan Ward said...

Very cool - it struck me the other day how much influence that experience had on my worldview. I don't think I would have come up with FIST if not for BRITE.