Understanding and communicating mission outcomes is the secret sauce for teamwork and collaboration in the IC, according to leaders from the Aerospace Data Facility-Colorado.
To motorists driving past it on Interstate 225, Buckley Space Force Base in Aurora, Colorado, is best known for the six giant “golf balls” that decorate its landscape. What looks like a whimsical roadside attraction, however, is actually a cluster of radomes: geodesic covers that protect massive satellite dishes and other crucial space equipment from rain, wind, hail, and snow.
The technology inside the radomes is remarkable because it allows intelligence analysts at the Aerospace Data Facility-Colorado (ADF-C)—a multi-mission ground station located at Buckley Space Force Base, but operated by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)—to receive data from powerful satellites that orbit the Earth in support of four critical national security missions: missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence, and battle space awareness.
What’s just as remarkable as the communication that takes place between ADF-C’s equipment, however, is the communication that takes place between ADF-C’s people, who represent multiple defense and intelligence agencies working collaboratively to collect, analyze, report, and disseminate intelligence information for federal customers around the world.
That inter-agency communication was the subject of a panel discussion Sunday afternoon at GEOINT Foreword, GEOINT 2022’s pre-conference science and technology day. Titled “Intelligence Integration in Colorado,” the 45-minute session featured moderator Johnny Sawyer, CEO of The Sawyer Group, and three ADF-C senior leaders: Sandra Auchter, director of NGA Denver, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s Denver operation; Darren Turner, director of the National Security Agency (NSA) Central Security Service (CSS) Colorado Cryptologic Center; and U.S. Space Force Col. Robert Schreiner, who serves as ADF-C’s commander.
Informed and shaped by audience questions, Sunday’s panel touched on a wide variety of subjects, from remote working during COVID-19 to the shared integration of new and emerging data sources. Across all subjects, however, the conversation’s overarching theme was teamwork.
How ADF-C creates and sustains teamwork across its components boils down to three vital best practices, Turner said:
- Over-communication: Leaders should operate with the assumption that they can never provide too much information.
- Honorable intent: Leaders should recognize their common interests and shared priorities, and always give the benefit of the doubt.
- Diversity and inclusion: Leaders should encourage and nurture a diverse and inclusive workforce that values all backgrounds and contributions equally.
But teamwork isn’t just about what leaders do. Even more fundamentally, it’s about why they do it.
“Quite frankly…it’s all about mission outcomes,” explained Turner, who said teams naturally unite when they understand the reason for their work, and the positive impact it can have.
For analysts at ADF-C, that positive impact has been especially apparent during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to Auchter, who says ADF-C’s work has been “pivotal” to understanding and anticipating the conflict. Among its contributions, for instance, has been furnishing commercial satellite imagery to the United States’ mission partners—including the Ukrainian government itself.
“As Russia was on the path toward invasion, we had to more than double our purchases of commercial imagery,” reported Auchter, who said ADF-C within the first two weeks of the war furnished the Ukrainian government with imagery covering more than 40 million square kilometers of area. “For us to be able to provide that to a foreign partner in such a short period of time is incredible…It’s enabling us to be able to meet the mission.”
At the end of the day, that’s the secret to teamwork in the IC, Turner said.
“We work together to produce a mission. That is the…driver,” he concluded. “It’s all about mission outcomes.”