National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Deputy Associate Director for Capabilities Sandra Auchter spoke about the broad scope of the agency’s capabilities, from main focus areas to data standardization, July 23 at USGIF’s GEOINTeraction Tuesday event sponsored by Orbital Insight.

To support GEOINT mission requirements, Auchter said her office aligns capabilities under three focus areas: Mission Now, Mission Next, and Innovation.

“Mission Now” is about ensuring current capabilities are delivered seamlessly to agency and partner end users.

NGA’s Sandra Auchter addresses attendees during USGIF’s GEOINTeraction Tuesday event at The View of DC in Arlington, Va.

“We are not just delivering capabilities for our agency,” Auchter said. “We are also delivering capabilities for our senior partners, warfighters, services, and our third-party partners.”

“Mission Next” is about preparing for what’s on the horizon, and concentrates on expectations for the near future.

“This is a visible future,” she said. “[We] have to prepare for what is coming down the pipe. … We see the light at the end of the tunnel and if you’re not prepared for it, it could be a train.”

The last focus area, “Innovation,” is less tangible.

“[Innovation is] not something you can see or that has requirements,” Auchter said.
“So, it’s really difficult for managers, in particular, when we are in that ‘Mission Now’ and ‘Mission Next’ space to be open and understand that this is something we need to focus on with research.”

“[Innovation] is something where you all can help,” she continued, addressing industry in the audience.

Auchter also referenced what she called NGA’s role as a data corporation, saying the agency is in the business of data in addition to GEOINT.

“We have been in the data business for a long time, but we haven’t articulated that,” she said. 

During Q&A, Auchter was asked to elaborate on NGA’s role as a data organization. When she was an analyst, she explained, there were fewer sources that were easier to manage compared with the modern influx of sources. Today, she continued, GEOINT professionals are not just delivering pixels, but providing data and insights.

Standardizing the deluge of data represents a significant challenge, according to Auchter. Doing so, she continued, will require increased communication between NGA’s Source and Analysis Directorates regarding data standards.

Auchter concluded one of her goals is to identify data conditioning standards.

“We are going to have to make decisions in the future on balancing how it is we go back and condition [the data] we have now and create standards for that to come later.”

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Posted by Lisbeth Perez