Maj. Gen. Linda Urrutia-Varhall, director of operations for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), spoke to 140 people at USGIF’s GEOINTeraction Tuesday event Nov. 15 during the Foundation’s 2016 GEOINT Community Week. NGA Deputy Director of Plans and Programs Heidi Smith also gave remarks.
Urrutia-Varhall, who came to NGA in June from her position as assistant deputy chief of staff for ISR at the Pentagon, began her speech by sharing how excited and energized she is to be in her new role.
“I have wanted to be at NGA for the last three assignments,” Urrutia-Varhall said, adding that she personally called NGA Director Cardillo and requested to be considered for the relatively new position. Upon joining NGA, she asked to stay for at least a couple of years to “define and codify” NGA’s director of operations position.
“This is truly where I’ve wanted to be for some time,” she continued. “Why? [NGA is only] 20 years old. Realize the opportunity at NGA. Small sats are just one. Commercial imagery. GEOINT overall. Bringing in open source—how do we mix in Twitter, Facebook? Think of the potential out there. What is and should NGA be doing? We’re helping to drive that—what is the answer for the community at large?”
Urrutia-Varhall also discussed the importance of industry and academic partnerships, and the incredible ideas NGA interns and young professionals bring into the agency.
“I’ve watched USGIF for the last 10 years and how we’ve really taken GEOINT to a whole different stride,” she said.
Urrutia-Varhall also emphasized the significance of NGA’s role in geospatial intelligence functional management and the agency’s responsibility to lead the GEOINT Community into the future.
“Especially with all the commercial satellites, everyone is screaming for guidance in functional management,” she said.
Smith also discussed how her office would also help shape the future of GEOINT. For example, the strategic shift to rename NGA’s InnoVision Directorate to NGA Research earlier this year.
“When Peter Highnam joined NGA we really doubled down on how do you solve those hard, GEOINT problems,” Smith said. “We can look to industry to solve some of those near-term problems, but how do we partner with In-Q-Tel and think bigger and more strategically?”
Regarding acquisition, Smith said NGA Plans and Programs has put a “laser focus” on defining programs and articulating to industry what the agency needs to accomplish its mission.
Other items Smith described as “imperative” that her office is delivering on and driving aggressively toward included advancing analytic modernization, GEOINT services, IC ITE migration, and mission talent alignment.