Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
Panel Discussion with NGA Leadership
September 9th, 2015 by Susan Smith
This panel discussion, entitled “A Conversation with NGA Leadership,” conducted Wednesday June 24th, at GEOINT 2015 had the flavor of an inside meeting, according to USGIF CEO Keith Masback, who joked that “we cleverly tricked about 1,500 people into coming to a staff meeting.”
The panel was comprised of Robert Cardillo, Director, NGA and front office members:
Robert Cardillo began with a description of his role at the NGA – “I took the job back in the 2014, inherited the structure – for me it was wonderful and flat, for my skills and shortcomings I needed a more defined structure. I modified how we worked in the front office. Reinforced deputy of commission, reinstated chief of staff, and director for plans and programs, had deep conversation about challenges confronting us, called “huddles.” We will have a huddle here with you. We’re so enthused about Team GEOINT that we have a uniform – a Team GEOINT t-shirt.
Most of my day is spent either receiving, documenting, collecting or registering very difficult challenges about future value propositions. And those usually involve acquisition, research and development, and contractual strategy, but they are all quite important and difficult.”
He made the statement that Sue Gordon handled the complicated stuff, Jim Griffith handled current service, Misty handled future, and messy issues came under Ed’s aegis.
“I see my role as gardner to Retired Army General Stanley McChrystal and make sure we’re not in ruts,” Gordon said. “The first place achievement starts in knowing what you want to do. There’s nothing good that we’re going to do if were not sure of what we want to achieve. The second part is that you have to put mission needs up front.”
Also she offered insight into the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (ICITE) “We’re actually the providers of the common desktop environment, it is complicated and complex,” said Gordon. “We’re driving that hard. ICITE has to get in a common store so data can be used. So we’re putting large amounts of our content both in government cloud and CTS. Where we are not so good at are having apps that can act against that data. We’re driving hard at getting more data in and being able to use it. We’ve established a chief data officer. The environment has nearly 30,000 users and will grow to 75,000 users across nine agencies with in the next year.”
Griffin said, “Every day the demand for GEOINT goes up, and we are always looking at the mission and being able to shift from one mission to another. Let’s look at lowest possible classification for the things we’re doing. As we’re learning these things we’re working on how do we spread info and knowledge we’ve learned, so people are more comfortable learning those things.”
“We now promote people through rank and person,” said Mornston. “We need to take a hard look starting with mission and make sure we’re aligning our talent to the mission. We will have to do this to a much greater degree than before. When we look at our workforce, and project what we need in the future, we know that the workforce we have today isn’t the workforce we need going forward. We need to pay more attention to education, training and other stuff.”
A work role that will be crucial to the NGA in the future will be data scientists. It is among the new skillsets that will be important in the future but haven’t been in the past. Every hire has to matter, not just in terms of the person but in terms of the skills needed in the workforce.
Masback said, “In post 9/11, everything was sucked into ops, the question was, what’s your strategy to work on rebuild? To put some emphasis back into programming and planning? Ellen McCarthy got us off to a good start. I was NGA CFE until I got this job. We need to make sure when we make strategic deicisions we use them in day to day. Every year we get better, the mechanism gets better. We can continue to leverage those strategies in our communications.”
“You do have to have an internal core of expertise to adjudicate,” said Gordon. “We need more work on data working on data. We need to introduce data to true humans and how they use it. We need analytic tools to work from not only a known but also an unknown. From an organization dedicated to transparency, cybersecurity, and if you are closed you have lots of means to protect yourselves. When you are open, then what?
“We need to be making change that impacts at an individual level necessary to capture people at the individual level,” said Tullar. “We have to show that decisions we’re making are working.”
“Once we get transparency on our workforce, and what our resources are, we will start seeing a partnership,” said Mornston, “engage with folks that are commercial and mission partners.”
Desktop is efficient and capable. “We are almost 30,000 people between several organizations that are on desktop and are able to work every day,” said Gordon. “Over the next year, I think that number will grow to 75,000 across nine agencies. What has to happen is the apps need to explode into use and it’s a large endeavor when you decide to do things across organizations.”
“I have two jobs, director of NGA and managing discipline for the DOD and I do that through GeoComm sitting at the committee, service brothers and departmets and agencies through government that come to that forum,” said Cardillo. “I feel that during that time when we were on the receiving end of 9/11 your head is down. I have this much more money I have to move these contracts, more people etc. One of the benefits at the end of the surge, heads are up and hands are up. That’s my outside job, but connects to this job.”
“There is a collaboration going on in Denver,” said Mornston. “Agencies are learning how they can take advantage of each other. They get together regularly, get engaged rapidly and make agreements about how they’re going to operate. They have a collaboration zone. We’re trying to figure out how to bring it into the NGA.”
“We will need to be in the pixel procurement business but may not be as big in future — leasing, borrowing, renting may be there,” said Cardillo. “We can do a better job of exposing mission context to you all, so you can do better job of taking engineering wizardry and what it does for what mission and answers what intelligence question?”