N2W Project Update

NGA staffers provide forum attendees with a site and technology update for the agency’s new facility


The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has been a part of the St. Louis community for approximately 70 years. In 1952, the St. Louis Arsenal, where the NGA West Campus currently resides, went from manufacturing and supplying small arms to becoming the U.S. Air Force’s Aeronautical Chart and Information Center.

Next NGA West Aerial Overview, June 26, 2020 | Photo Credit: NGA

In 2016, NGA, in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Air Force, decided to invest nearly $2 billion to build the Next NGA West (N2W) campus in the North St. Louis region. The new campus is located just north of the Gateway Arch, a monument that commemorates the famous expedition of Lewis and Clark. The location puts NGA in the heart of a community of outstanding academic institutions and cutting-edge industry.

According to Susan Pollmann, west executive and N2W program director, NGA, the foundation work on the facility and the main operations building design are close to complete. By fall 2021, NGA aims to complete its critical IT design and be ready to move in by 2025, she added.

The 97-acre N2W campus will include an office building of approximately 712,000 square feet, an inspection facility, access control points, a visitor’s center, and parking garages. The new facility also includes wireless technologies—which, while standard in private industry, have been a challenge to adopt for a secure, classified work environment—and plans for the facility to be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standards for environmental sustainability.

Next NGA West Learning Center Design | Photo Credit: NGA

For N2W, the agency is pursuing four high-priority efforts for the IT architecture in the new facility, said Chris Ashabranner, associate program director, Information Technology & Readiness, NGA:

  1. Secure wireless available to all users
  2. Zero-client solution
  3. Implementation of a hybrid multi-cloud on and off premise
  4. Multidomain access

Through a secure wireless network available to all users, there is seamless communication for voice and data to mobile devices within N2W workspaces. This, according to Ashabranner, enables a modern, mobile workforce, allowing users to work anywhere with their devices. It also facilitates improved productivity, collaboration, and convenience; increases security, automation, and flexibility in the workspace; and enables continuity of operations.

With a zero-client solution, the user deceive has no moving parts and enables data processing performed on a back-end server or in the cloud, which drives toward maximum zero-client/this client technologies within N2W to enable the mission. Currently, wireless implementations across the IC are based on laptops (thick/thin) with encryption of data at rest, and devices are restricted to only one security domain.

“Ideally, we want to be able to give the workforce a device that they can move around the building. N2W’s goal is a mobile zero-client compliant with current community direction,” Ashabranner said.

The implementation of a hybrid multi-cloud on and off premise improves system availability and reliability, enables seamless consumption of infrastructure and resources across multiple clouds, and moves workloads between locations as demand and costs change. It is portable, flexible, scalable, and adjusts capacity to ensure consistent performance while minimizing costs.

Finally, multidomain access will enable the ability to access multiple security domains from a single device. It will support the use of multiple domains on the same device, allow a “cleaner” desktop environment—ideally eliminating a physical switch box, supporting user mobility via wireless end-user devices, and supporting the zero-client concept.

“We have a blank canvas to work with here. When I look at all of the goals that we have for N2W from a technology point of view, they hit almost one for one the goals of our technology strategy: to empower builders and makers, transform digital workspaces, treat data as a strategic asset, and build artificial intelligence, cloud, and high-performance computing into GEOINT mainstream,” said Mark Munsell, chief technology officer, NGA.

Featured Image: Next NGA West Campus Design | Credit: NGA

Posted in: Event Recaps   Tagged in: Innovation, N2W, NGA, ST Louis

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