Bringing NGA’s Future into Focus

Agency leaders on research, data science, industry partnerships, and more


The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) sent 265 representatives to GEOINT 2019 to learn about the latest geospatial technology and trends. Agency personnel will participate in a variety of programs throughout the week, including training sessions, lightning talks, and Government Pavilion Stage (Booth 466) discussions.

Three NGA leaders spoke with The GEOINT Symposium Show Daily ahead of the event to share a preview of their presentations as well as insights on agency priorities and initiatives.

Dr. Cindy Daniell, Director, Research

Dr. Cindy Daniell

Daniell’s panel discussion, “NGA: Bringing the Future into Focus,” will take place Monday from 1:15 to 2:00 p.m. at the Government Pavilion Stage in the exhibit hall. The discussion, moderated by Sandra Auchter, associate deputy director of capabilities, will also include Director of Analysis Sue Kalweit, Director of Source Kim Fite, and Associate CIO Susan Shuback.

Daniell, who became director of NGA Research in June 2018, said her office’s mission is “to deliver future GEOINT capabilities to users for operational impact.” In the panel discussion, she will talk about the future of research, including automation “as it drives the warfighter, the analyst, and the machine.”

With respect to the warfighter, Daniell said the future is “secure, persistent, and on-demand GEOINT”—that is able to yield answers whether the warfighter is in the field searching for fresh water or an urban environment in need of a safe route to headquarters.

In the future, Daniell predicts analysts will drive an automated, adaptive workflow environment. With speech-to-text already available, the addition of eye-tracking has the potential to further accelerate workflow. And, she continued, machines will operate in concert with both warfighters and analysts, optimizing and feeding data sources to the right people at the right time.

Daniell said all aspects of NGA’s research portfolio align under one of three themes: foundation GEOINT, collection technologies, or analytic technologies.

“We have a big objective to expand our performer base,” Daniell said. “To do so we are looking at new ways of contracting as one of the biggest vehicles to help us with that.”

Daniell also encouraged attendees to check out a lightning talk by NGA’s John Greer, Ph.D., titled, “Why Automatic Target Recognition is So Hard, and How We’ll Solve it Anyway.” Greer’s talk will take place Monday at 3:20 p.m. at the Innovation Corner (Booth 1943).

Dr. Andrew Brooks, Chief Data Scientist

Dr. Andrew Brooks

Brooks will participate in a panel discussion titled, “People, Data, and Technology as Strategic Assets,” Monday from 2:30 to 3:15 p.m. at the Government Pavilion alongside NGA CTO Mark Munsell, NGA Chief Data Officer Deepak Kundal, and Jeanne Stacey of NGA Data Corps.

According to Brooks, each presenter will discuss different perspectives on the question, “How do you create value out of data?” For example, how to create value at scale, how to create value for users, and how to maintain and increase the value of data as an asset.

The discussion will also touch upon the agency’s new strategic plan for data science, which explores how to create value through the lenses of people, data, and technology, according to Brooks.

From a people perspective, that means having the right people inside the agency with the knowledge to create value out of data as well as understanding who NGA’s customers are and how they use data.

When it comes to data, the plan includes cataloging the agency’s existing data with the proper labeling and metadata to make it structured and discoverable, and also engaging with industry to determine what new forms of data to pursue.

Regarding technology, the new plan considers what NGA personnel need to perform their job today and in the future, including the necessary technology for the agency to pursue its Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and Augmentation (AAA) initiative.

Christy Monaco, Chief Ventures Officer, Office of Ventures and Innovation

Christy Monaco

Monaco and Dave Gauthier, NGA’s director of Commercial GEOINT Solutions, will host a discussion titled, “Harnessing Innovation through Industry Partnerships,” Wednesday from 12 to 12:30 p.m. at the Government Pavilion.

The goal is to provide more clarity for industry partners about how Monaco and Gauthier’s respective offices relate and differ. The duo will provide a “peek behind the curtain” as to “what happens inside NGA when we are approached by an industry partner and the potential solutions and offerings they have,” according to Monaco.

One new way the agency is harnessing innovation is through its Partnership Intermediary Agreement with the Missouri Technology Corp. (MTC) in St. Louis.

“We are lucky we live in a time where the geospatial industry is so important that a lot of technology being developed, both internal and external to NGA, has dual uses,” Monaco said. “It can be applied to NGA/GEOINT mission needs and also to commercial use cases. The PIA with MTC gives us the opportunity to promote and support technology transfer from NGA to industry.”

Monaco added that partnering with MTC will help NGA harness the energy around creating a geospatial tech hub in the St. Louis area, and the agreement will hopefully serve as a proof of concept for similar collaborations in the future.

At GEOINT 2019, Monaco is looking forward to meeting with companies that aren’t already “on her radar.”

“My team has been asking who I want to meet with, and my answer is that I want to meet with people we haven’t met with before,” she said. “Let’s look for those new opportunities and those potential new partners.”

Visit the NGA website to view a full schedule of the agency’s involvement at GEOINT 2019 and to download the publication, “NGA Tech Focus Areas: Hard Problems List.”

Headline Image: Christy Monaco at USGIF’s GEOINT Symposium Sneak Peek event in April.


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