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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
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 »

GEOINT Symposium 2019 Keynote from NGA Director Vice Adm. Robert Sharp

June 6th, 2019 by Susan Smith

At the GEOINT Symposium 2019 held in San Antonio, Texas, NGA Director Vice Adm. Robert Sharp gave a keynote in which he brought to the audience’s attention new leadership roles including his own as the seventh NGA director.

He vowed to cover three topics: NGA Strategy, Core Values and Seeking Help.

With NGA Strategy, Sharp noted the following four goals it has always had:

  1. People
  2. Partnerships
  3. Mission Today
  4. Mission Tomorrow

First Sharp talked of taking care of the people – what he deems “our greatest asset.” NGA is looking at taking deliberate actions to acquire, develop and retain talent. “We’re concentrating on creating the environment where our people want to stay on the team, where they’re properly resourced, where their families are taken care of, where we’ve set the conditions for them to contribute, to grow and to succeed,” said Sharp.

He spoke of diversity and inclusion, with the NGA requiring a diverse set of backgrounds, skill sets experiences and expertise.

Without partnerships, Sharp says you’re weaker and more apt to fail. Team NGA relies on a broad range of partners that are represented in their National and Allied Systems for Geospatial Intelligence; Intelligence Community and Interagency partners; and in partnerships as a Combat Support Agency with all the Service, Combatant Commands and Joint Warfighters; in strong collaboration with First Responders and those who conduct Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief both domestically and internationally; in all strong partnerships and friends with international teammates and in the industry.

There are more bilateral international partner agreements now – up to more than 70 and include

  • The International Program for Human Geography (IPHG) shares human geography data between 12 countries.
  • The TanDEMx High Resolution Elevation Data Exchange (TREx) Program shares elevation data with 31 countries.
  • The Multinational Geospatial Co-Production (MGCP) shares mapping data with 32 countries
  • NGA
  • Esri
  • Digital Globe
  • The Ohio State
  • The University of Illinois, with the famous National Science Foundation Supercomputer Blue Waters
  • And the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota

Mission Today maintains detailed, foundational characterizations of the Earth from seabed to space, and observes and analyzes what is occurring when and where, and also building GEOINT products to provide context and insights for a broad range of customers.

Improved processes to meet the highly challenging security environment of today include the Enterprise Engine, for mariners NGA has recently automated a 150-year-old process to ingest source data in 14 languages from 75 countries. “It now uses translation algorithms and optical character recognition to read documents in different formats, and puts maritime symbols, numbers, and words into a GIS-enabled workspace,” said Sharp.  “That means analysts don’t need to scrutinize pages of source data and charts by hand anymore – they have electronic records that are way easier to work with than manually annotated hard copy records.”

GEOINT products are now available to a broader customer base. Cyclone Ida hit the shores of Mozambique and immediately the NGA began coordinating the efforts to help AFRICOM transport aid and workers.

In addition, the NGA had a deployed team in Djibouti that resolved tactical problems while their Central-Southern Africa Branch and the AFRICOM NGA Support Team handled the analysis. The NGA Support Team worked within the State Department with USAID to help understand what was required of the NGOs providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. After coordination, geospatial data was released to those who needed it in a timely fashion who were able to save lives.

The NGA also provides unclassified products to help with maintaining long-standing rules-based international order.

Mission Tomorrow is really about providing intelligence, that is about providing timely insight into opportunities for, and threats to, national security. Anticipating future world events are part of that picture, which involves a commitment to modernizing the NGA’s IT infrastructure, collection services, networks, training and business practices.

“If you’re looking for an area to partner with us,” said Sharp, “I highly recommend you focus on Artificial Intelligence, Automation and Augmentation – what we call AAA.”

“Our goal is to partner with machines so that we can make best use of the exponential growth in volume and source of data, letting machines do what machines do well and analysts do what analysts do even better – think critically and solve problems.”

About 20% of the workspace will be unclassified for the improvement and enhancement of how the NGA works with academia and industry partners. Another 20% is reconfigurable for creating workspace for interacting with a broad range of customers.

Core Values include the following (as cited by Sharp):

  • Excellence, we will be first-rate in all we do
  • Accountability – we will answer for our conduct, even when no one is looking
  • Respect – we will leverage diversity and creativity to perform as one NGA Team
  • Teamwork – we will work together to achieve a common goal
  • And Honesty – we will be truthful at all times to ourselves and to others.

Sharp notes that values spell EARTH.

Seeking help includes seeking the help of those members. NGA’s motto is “show the way,” and seek help in doing so. The NGA handed out an 8-page booklet entitled “NGA Tech Focus Areas,” for which they are looking for feedback on the challenges that are identified – data analytics and visualization, advanced GEOINT exploitation, Activity Modeling, Earth Modeling, Collection, Search and Discovery, and Business Intelligence and Data-Driven Production.

Sharp noted that President Kennedy gave a speech at Rice University in 1962 where he said: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade…not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”

Sharp said that the best way to deal with difficult problems is to partner up, with people and partnerships.


Congratulations to the winner of the AECCafe/GISCafe Sweepstakes held at SPAR, Chitwan Saluja!

As Platform Technologies Manager for the North Region at Jacobs, Chitwan Saluja manages the company’s Building Information Modeling (BIM) and technology implementation in the North Region while contributing to business development efforts, community outreach and the cultivation of an environment of innovation. Chitwan is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University (PSU) with a Master of Science (MS) in Architectural Engineering.   She brings over 10 years of experience in the construction industry specifically focused on technology implementation in the AEC industry. Her background is in development, implementation, and management of technology environments for the design, construction and operation of large facility programs. Chitwan’s primary responsibility is the implementation of Building Information Modeling (BIM) during the lifecycle of the project.

Categories: analytics, Big Data, emergency response, Esri, field GIS, GEOINT, geospatial, GIS, global aircraft surveillance, government, handhelds, hardware, hurricanes, image-delivery software, indoor mapping, lidar, location based sensor fusion, location based services, location intelligence, mapping, mobile, mobile mapping, NASA, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, NGA, NOAA, OGC, Open Source, photogrammetry, reality modeling, remote sensing, satellite based tracking, satellite imagery, survey, telecommunications

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