Government Pavilion Stage Highlights: Part 1

Recaps on NGA’s CIBORG contract vehicle, the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation, DIUx, and training standards


Leaders from government, military, industry, and academia shared insights and business opportunities Monday afternoon at the Government Pavilion Stage (Booth 117) in the GEOINT 2018 exhibit hall.

Australia Fortifies GEOINT Capabilities in New 10-Year Plan
By Melanie D.G. Kaplan


Following his participation in the GEOINT Ops panel, Chris Hewett, assistant secretary for capability and development with the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO), gave a standalone presentation on the Government Pavilion Stage.

Hewett appealed to industry representatives to partner with AGO, the Australian Department of Defence’s lead geospatial and imagery intelligence organization.

“Please make contact with us if you want to be part of our journey from here on,” he said, directing the audience to AGO’s new website.

The website also includes AGO’s new 2018 Defence Industrial Capability Plan, which sets out a comprehensive plan for Australia’s defense industry.

By 2028, according to the plan, Australia will require a larger, more capable, and prepared defense industry that has the resident skills, expertise, technology, intellectual property, and infrastructure to support the Australian Defence Force. The plan also identifies entry points for businesses looking to join the industry.

Given the increasing demand for and investment in AGO in the next decade, Hewett said the organization sees a much larger role for industry players, but also a very different role than they’ve taken in the past.

“We’re moving from a paradigm in which industry told us what to deliver to reverse that and very much driving the deliveries,” Hewett said. “We’re looking to develop a more sophisticated industry engagement model in which AGO is the systems integrator. We know our business best, but we recognize that industry knows technology best. It gives us the level of agility that our customer demands.”

Hewett said AGO will maintain its key partners while looking to engage with small and medium Australian enterprises as well as international businesses. The Defence Innovation Hub is available for Australian startups to pitch ideas to the defence department and secure funding.

A Geospatial Training Makeover
By Melanie D.G. Kaplan


Twice a year, Erik Kleinsmith, associate vice president of strategic partnering for American Military University, teaches military history at his children’s high school, using methods he knows will resonate with students.

“I bring out a table full of miniatures and assign leaders,” Kleinsmith said during a panel titled, “Beyond Training: GEOINT Skill and Knowledge Transfer.” “These kids get into it so much that I now have groupies eating lunch with me in the cafeteria because they love talking history, and they want it presented as an immersive gaming environment. If I gave it to them in a straight lecture, they’d all be asleep.”

Panelists explored what it will take to train the intelligence workforce in a fast-paced environment.

Julia Bowers, CEO of Pearl Analysis and a member of the USGIF Board of Directors, differentiated between training and knowledge transfer. “Training, for me, is direct and structured, scheduled and uncomfortable,” she said. “Knowledge transfer is a conversation. It’s customized to the audience and inspiring. I think training really needs a makeover.”

Bowers encouraged industry to revamp training, starting with making the environment comfortable (snacks, casual attire) so the conversations can be uncomfortable. She favors two classes for every topic, each lasting 15 minutes—not hours or months.

Collin Agee, senior Army operations advisor to NGA at the Army GEOINT Office, stressed the importance of storytelling in transferring knowledge. NGA Director Robert Cardillo has a policy, Agee said: “Anytime someone gives a briefing, they have to first tell their story.”

Dan Scott, director of NGA College, said training must be delivered faster, better, and cheaper. “In the future,” he said, “it’s about lifelong learning. You’re going to have to re-tool yourself several times in your career.”

Kleinsmith said when someone asks him how to get into intelligence as a career—whether it’s a high schooler or college graduate—he tells them to do something else first. “We steal [intelligence analysts] from the military, from law enforcement, and from other professions,” he said. “We convert them through training and education.”

DIUx Aims for Faster GEOINT Contracting
By Phillip Swarts

New acquisition paths could help lots of companies sell GEOINT products and services to the U.S. government—not just established businesses but start-ups too, said Army Col. David Robinson in another standalone presentation.

As the acting military deputy for the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), it’s Robinson’s job to bring in some of those new technologies and companies.

Established by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter during the Obama administration, DIUx has authorization to use “Other Transactional Authorities,” or special contracting vehicles authorized by Congress to not follow normal contracting guidelines.

For example, Robinson said DIUx can finalize contracts in three to four weeks; it’s decisions can’t be protested; and it can structure payments quickly so start-ups don’t have to wait years for financial support.

The goal is to get new ideas and technology into the hands of the military as quickly as possible, Robinson said.

“The fact is we are being outpaced in the technical realm by near-peer and peer adversaries,” he continued. “If we don’t find another way to bring innovation—that takes place in this country largely—to our [the DoD], then we’re going to get out-stripped and we’re going to get beaten.”

Robinson said he’s not concerned about disrupting current contracting vehicles.

“The bottom line is that this could potentially perturb a very tried and true, long-standing procurement and acquisition apparatus that we have really grown a culture around,” he said. “So on the edges of that might be some fear that the business cases of old are on some shaky ground. I, for one, think that’s just fine. In fact, I know that’s why Congress has put that in the appropriations acts—because it wants to stimulate that kind of innovation.”

NGA’s CIBORG Advances
By Phillip Swarts

NGA officials said they’re pleased that a year-old effort to connect the government with GEOINT contractors and streamline the acquisition process seems to be on track.

When NGA Director Robert Cardillo announced the Commercial Initiative to Buy Operationally Responsive GEOINT (CIBORG) last year, the agency “only had a handful of vendors that we were aware of that offered geospatial products and services,” said Will Jackson, the program’s NGA lead.

During the past year, Jackson said NGA has now identified more than 100 new vendors who could provide geospatial technology of benefit to the agency.

“We’re moving in the right direction, but we want to continue to see movement in having access to technologies that the commercial market space is offering,” Jackson said.

Likewise, he added, the effort has identified 200 vendors NGA may have overlooked and needs to re-contact.

“We want to continue to leverage and understand what products and services are out there so that we can go out there and purchase it,” Jackson said.

NGA has also partnered with the General Services Administration—in charge of most of the acquisition for the federal government—to come up with new ways to reach companies.

Jill Thomas, director of IT Schedule 70 at GSA, said CIBORG has experienced success with an effort dubbed “Springboard.” Rather than earning certification from a track record of corporate experience—which tech start-ups and small companies may not have—Springboard allows companies to substitute the industry experience of their executives and key personnel instead.

“We have been successful in bringing new and emergent tech companies onto the schedule that have less than two years existence,” she said. “Our first ‘Springboard’ is a multi-million dollar order.”


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