Leaders from government, military, industry, and academia shared insights and business opportunities April 25 at the Government Pavilion Stage in the GEOINT 2018 exhibit hall. 

Got Acquisition Ideas? Write them Down, NGA Deputy Director Says

By Phillip Swarts

It’s time to stop simply talking about acquisition reform and to start taking more actions, said Justin Poole, deputy director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), during a Government Pavilion panel discussion with NGA acquisition leaders.

“I’m looking for tangible, real milestones we can sink our teeth into,” he said.

According to Poole, some of the best ideas have come from industry leaders who hand him a physical list of suggestions.

“Bring me a list of things you think we should do to improve acquisition. I’m looking for any kind of industry outreach, working group, or mechanism,” Poole continued.

He added that recent discussions with industry have also led to innovative ideas on how to restructure acquisition.

For example, NGA is scheduling a “Reverse Industry Day” for the fall, at which industry owners and representatives will take the stage to share their obstacles, concerns, and recommendations. The idea is give NGA employees and contracting officers the chance to sit in the audience and ask questions about government-industry relations.

NGA is also striving to be more transparent by making publicly available as much unclassified information as possible about upcoming contracts, Poole said.

Available through the Intelligence Community Acquisition Research Center website, NGA is posting information such as the expected day a request for proposal will be published or single-person NGA points of contact.

The agency is also looking at creating “smaller, more modular, potentially shorter contract vehicles” and to work with more with non-traditional partners, Poole said.

Tanya Pemberton, NGA’s director of CIO-T Services, said the agency is making considerable efforts to change its acquisition processes, but asked for patience.

“All of these plans require what I would call significant cultural shifts in terms of how we at NGA pursue acquisition,” she said. “That’s not going to happen in a week, it’s not going to happen in a month. We hope you’re starting to see some of the changes we’re making, but it’s going to be a long road.”

NRO Buys What it Can, Builds What it Must

By Melanie D.G. Kaplan

At the 2017 GEOINT Symposium, the directors of the Commercial GEOINT Activity (CGA) unveiled the Leaderboard, a web-based platform through which industry can learn about government needs and submit capabilities for swift feedback. A year later, it’s even easier for commercial vendors to enter data, said Peter Muend, director of the Commercial Systems Program Office for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), in a presentation on the way forward for commercial imagery at NRO.

CGA is a joint initiative between NRO and NGA that positions both agencies to take full advantage of existing and emerging commercial GEOINT capabilities. 

“The agreement plays to our strengths—it directs NRO to be the primary acquirer of commercial GEOINT imagery for the Intelligence Community, and NGA to be the primary acquirer further up the value stream,” Muend said.

Muend added CGA is not just about acquiring pixels or analytic products. “A lot of you provide services where it’s not just delivering the answer, it’s delivering us the means to create the answer ourselves in more innovative ways,” he said.

CGA presents tremendous benefits for NRO, Muend said, both operationally and with regard to acquisition. The key is NRO only builds when it has no other option.

“It’s imperative on all of us to make sure—if it’s possible for commercial to do and it’s within their wheel house, we have to take advantage of that,” Muend concluded. “We’ll only build systems that commercial [cannot].”

High-Tech Imaging of Public Lands

By Melanie D.G. Kaplan 

At the GEOINT 2018 Government Pavilion, Jeff Sloan, team lead for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) National Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Project Office, said UAS have revolutionized the business of land management for tasks as varied as wildlife tracking and flood modeling.

“The Department of Interior manages one out of every five acres, primarily in the West,” Sloan said. “We originally did it with topographic maps and then remote sensing processes. There are nine bureaus in Interior, and every one is getting into the drone world.”

Within the department, scientists may use UAS to monitor environmental conditions, survey earthquake faults, respond to natural hazards, and create 3D models of national monuments.

This month, USGS celebrates 10 years of UAS use. Sloan said UAS resolution is better than alternative technologies, and the systems save users money and field time. Still, much about the process is similar to that required for aerial or satellite photography—all involve cameras, collecting and managing images, archiving, and sharing the information with the public.

Training is relatively easy and identical across the agencies, Sloan said—so a National Park Service employee will receive the same UAS instruction as a Fish & Wildlife Service employee.

“The beauty of this is we’ve trained career folks at USGS, and this is pretty learnable. That’s part of the magic,” he said.

Featured Image: NGA Acquisition representatives discuss restructuring efforts April 25 at the GEOINT 2018 Government Pavilion Stage. 

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